Blacksmith Specialty Coffee: what it is and why it matters
Specialty coffee is a term that is often used in the coffee industry to describe high-quality coffee that is produced with an exceptional level of care, expertise, and attention to detail. This type of coffee is typically produced from high-quality Arabica beans, which are sourced from specific regions and grown under specific conditions to enhance their flavor, aroma, and complexity. It is differentiated from commercial-grade coffee beans, which are grown for volume and often processed in ways that compromise their flavor profile.
History and Evolution of Specialty Coffee:
Specialty coffee has a long history that dates back to the middle of the 20th century when a group of coffee enthusiasts in the US began to appreciate the unique flavors and aromas of coffee produced using Arabica beans. In the early 1980s, these individuals formed the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), which established the first set of parameters for coffee quality and established a rating system that could be used to evaluate the flavor and aroma of different types of coffee.
Since then, the term "specialty coffee" has been used to describe coffee that scores over 80 points on the SCAA's Cupping Scorecard (a rating system that evaluates coffee based on fragrance, aroma, flavor, acidity, body, and aftertaste). Specialty coffee has become an important niche market within the coffee industry, with many consumers seeking out high-quality, unique, and flavorful coffee to enjoy at home or in coffee shops.
Production of Specialty Coffee:
Specialty coffee is typically produced in small quantities by small-scale farmers who grow coffee in specific regions and with specific growing practices. These farmers often focus on sustainable and environmentally friendly practices, such as shade-grown coffee, which protects the coffee plants from direct sun exposure and minimizes the use of pesticides and fertilizers.
Arabica coffee beans are the most commonly used beans for specialty coffee, and they are grown in specific regions where the climate, soil, and altitude contribute to their unique character. For example, Ethiopian coffee is known for its floral, fruity, and tart flavors, while Colombian coffee is characterized by its nutty and chocolatey undertones.
Specialty coffee production is a complex and labor-intensive process that involves several key stages, including harvesting, processing, and roasting. During the harvesting stage, the coffee cherries are carefully picked by hand, leaving only the ripest cherries on the plant. This ensures that the coffee beans are of the highest quality and have the most complex and nuanced flavors.
After the coffee cherries are harvested, they are typically processed using one of two methods: washed or natural. Washed coffee processing involves removing the outer layer of the coffee cherry and then washing the beans to remove any remaining pulp and mucilage. This process results in a clean and bright flavor profile. In contrast, natural processing involves leaving the coffee cherries to dry in the sun, resulting in a sweeter and fruitier flavor profile.
Finally, the coffee beans are roasted to bring out their unique flavors and aromas. Specialty roasters typically roast coffee in small batches to ensure that the beans are perfectly roasted and to prevent any uneven roasting or flavor profile inconsistencies.
Taste of Specialty Coffee:
It is known for its distinct and complex flavor profile, which can vary depending on the region, growing conditions, and processing method. Generally, specialty coffee has a rich and full-bodied flavor with delicate undertones of fruit, chocolate, or nuts. The acidity of specialty coffee is often described as bright and lively, with hints of citrus or berry flavors.
One of the unique aspects of specialty coffee is its aroma, which can be described as floral, fruity, spicy, or nutty. The aroma of specialty coffee is often just as important as its taste, as it can provide a sensory experience that enhances the overall enjoyment of the coffee.