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What is Specialty Coffee?

If you thought that specialty coffee is “your mother's coffee” or “the coffee you prepared for a beloved one,” you may have been right, but these are not the requirements adopted in the coffee market to say if coffee is specialty or not

coffee beans in a hand

According to the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) Sensory Evaluation Methodology, used worldwide, a Specialty Coffee is the coffee that reaches at least 80 points on the methodology's scale (which goes up to 100).

This classification is made by a certified coffee taster (SCAA) or a licensed Q Grader (Coffee Quality Institute - CQI).

The SCAA created an objective sensory assessment methodology, the SCAA Cupping Method.

cupping coffee method

Based on scientific concepts, all elements used in the evaluation process are perfectly defined, such as the roasting point, the water used, and the tasting temperature.

The SCAA Technical Standards Committee (TSC) recommends this methodology to ensure the ability to assess coffee quality more accurately. To this end, a list of parameters was created (listed below) capable of evaluating different coffee attributes, each of which is scored on a scale between zero and ten.

The Specialty Coffee, therefore, is one that scores 80 to 100 points using the SCAA Sensory Evaluation Methodology, and the following attributes are evaluated to classify it: 

  • Fragrance and Aroma
  • Flavor
  • Completion (aftertaste)
  • Acidity
  • Body
  • Harmony
  • Sweetness
  • Absence of Defects (clean cup)
  • Uniformity (each cup statistically represents 20% of the evaluated lot)
  • Final Concept (general impression about the coffee, attributed by the evaluator. Only part of the classifier's subjectivity in the sample evaluation)
  • Defects

So a Specialty Coffee is a coffee in its maximum flavor quality and is different from other coffees, as they are planted at perfect altitude, at the right time of the year, in the best soil, and harvested at the right time.

All of this translates into some of the most exciting and tasty coffees in the world. 

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