Can you imagine your morning without a fresh cup of coffee? If not, you must be a passionate lover of this beverage.
In case you consider yourself an avid drinker, you have probably heard the term speciality coffee, which is usually interpreted as expensive and fancy. Nevertheless, it refers to products that obtain the highest grade in the course of bean classification, meeting the standards of size, acidity, altitude, density, defect number, etc.
Coffee products awarded a speciality grade provide a cup of full enjoyment by appealing to all senses of consumers. There are various speciality shops, such as the Quirky Coffee speciality coffee shop, offering monthly subscriptions to customers.
Make sure you learn why these products have the best taste ever.
What is speciality coffee?
Although most people consider it a modern term, it was coined back in 1974 by Erna Knautsen, an industry pioneer. In the 1980s, it was colloquially named gourmet coffee, sold directly to customers. The Speciality Coffee Association of America, founded in 1982, defined it as a product free of defect, adequately drained and sized, with specific attributes. In layman’s terms, it means the beverage was able to pass the grading tests.
Speciality coffee refers to any beans that achieve a score higher than eighty out of a hundred points. In general, only ten percent of all produced beans are able to reach the speciality grade. Any species can be classified as a speciality as long as it’s awarded at least eighty points. Nevertheless, Arabica species make up the majority of such products. Arabica comprises almost seventy percent of the global production, characterized by a sweeter taste than Robusta.
As far as growing regions are concerned, Kenya, Columbia, and Ethiopia are considered the leading producers of speciality coffee. Nevertheless, other smaller countries like Panama are trying to find their place under the sun. Due to the two surrounding oceans and various microclimates, Panama is making its best effort to become a world-renowned producer of high-quality coffee.
Arabica vs. Robusta
As already mentioned, there are two most worldwide popular coffee beans grown commercially, known as Arabica and Robusta. Although they come from the same plant family, their taste and bean characteristics differ. The former is the most sought-after type, originating from Ethiopia. It’s considered to be superior in flavor due to its sweet and smooth taste with notes of sugar and coffee.
Arabica contains less caffeine, and it thrives best at high elevations. Click here to learn which has more caffeine, light or dark roast. The flowers of this plant appear after several years, whereas the height of the shrub reaches a maximum of five meters (fifteen feet). The most popular varieties of Arabica beans are Typica and Bourbon. Some of the other varieties include Kona, Pacamara, Caturra, Vilalobos, and others.
In contrast, the taste of Robusta is more powerful, bitter, and harsh. It’s mainly used in espresso blends due to its ability to produce a better creamy layer. Unlike Arabica beans, Robusta beans come from a plant grown at altitudes between 200 and 800 meters. They aren’t prone to pest damage and provide a higher yield.
Arabica beans, on the other hand, grow at altitudes between 600 and 1200 meters. They’re much more fragile and vulnerable to damage caused by pests. They need rich soil, plenty of moisture, sun, and shade, which are conditions typical of cool subtropical climates. Most individuals prefer the flavor of Arabica because of the high amount of lipids and sugar concentration.
In terms of cultivation, approximately seventy-five percent of the global production of coffee is Arabica, while Robusta accounts for the remaining twenty-five percent. Brazil is the most popular producer of Arabica, while Vietnam is famous for producing the most Robusta.
How are beans graded?
In order to determine the quality of coffee, experts use a grading system to determine the exact bean quality by comparing different varieties. There’s no universal grading system that buyers and sellers across the globe can follow. Instead, every country devises its own system of assigning grades. Nevertheless, almost all systems rely on the same criteria in the course of grading, including defect number, altitude, screen size, botanical variety, roast appearance, bean density, and ultimately cup quality.
Nevertheless, the majority of sellers grade beans on the basis of three main criteria, which are the bean screen size, defect count and tasting the beverage. During the process of green grading, sellers visually inspect the beans looking for defects and measuring the size. In the course of cupping, graders rely on special protocols by focusing on the sweetness, acidity, uniformity, flavor, aroma, and balance of beans. The following link, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffee_bean, explains the history, etymology, and composition of coffee beans.
Coffee defects have a tremendous influence on the final grade. Beans are consistently at risk of damage, as insects can damage the seeds while still dangling from trees. Additionally, they might be chipped or broken due to the damage caused by processing machines. Conversely, entirely black beans indicate over-fermentation or water deprivation.
The lower the number of defects, the higher the grade. There are two types of defects to consider, primary and secondary. Primary defects have a drastic effect on cup quality, including insect damage, full sour, or full black beans. Secondary defects, however, aren’t as harmful to the taste of coffee as primary defects are.
When it comes to speciality coffee, there shouldn’t be any primary defects. Regarding secondary defects, there aren’t supposed to be more than three in a speciality batch. Let’s take the SCAA classification as an example for attributing grades.
The speciality grade is the highest grade awarded to coffee beans. They’re supposed to have no primary defects, while zero to three secondary defects. There should be no quackers, referring to unripe or insufficiently roasted beans, as well as no taints and cup faults. Also, coffee products with a speciality grade are expected to show uniqueness in flavor, aroma, or acidity.
Grade 2 or premium grade coffee is the second-highest mark. Grade 2 beans are permitted to have up to three Quakers and a maximum of eight defects. In contrast, grade 3 variants are fifty percent above the screen size and fifteen percent below it. They contain no faults, but between nine and twenty-three defects are allowed, along with five Quakers.
Grade 4 variants are of low quality, as between 24 and 86 defects are permissible per 300 grams. The lowest grade 5 is attributed to beans of extremely low quality with over eighty-six defects.
Popular speciality variants
The selection of products with a speciality grade is extensive, as there are numerous variants available to consumers. For instance, Kenya AA Plus is single-origin coffee produced in the red volcanic soils of central Kenya. It’s hand-sorted to ensure the finest quality.
The AA quality mark indicates the width of beans is a minimum of a quarter of an inch. This variant is characterized by citric acidity and notes of vanilla, blackcurrant, and sugar cane. Kenya Peaberry Coffee is another popular species with a fruity and sweet flavor of blackcurrant, milk chocolate, and rhubarb. The largest part of cherries contains two beans, whereas five to ten percent of cherries contain just one due to genetic mutation.
A processing plant is in charge of sorting through smaller beans, separating them on the basis of size and weight. An interesting fact is that the Peaberry mutation percentage is dependent on heat and rainfall. The less rainfall and more heat, the higher the number of peaberries.
Columbian La Laguna is a creamy and smooth type of espresso with a sweet flavor of cocoa and caramel. Its SCAA score is 87.5, classified as 100% Arabica coffee. The plants grow at altitudes of 1700 to 1850 meters among lemons, pineapples, panela, and yucca.
Another exquisite product is the Nicaraguan La Bastila, graded 88.38 by SCAA. It’s grown in volcanic soils, deep into the mountains. All cherries are handpicked in accordance with their microclimates. A cup of this beverage enables consumers to enjoy the sweet taste of pears and apples with a hint of citrus. Conversely, Costa Rican Tarrazu is a type of coffee that promises creaminess and taste of cocoa and orange. It’s grown at altitudes between 1500 and 1650 meters.
The bottom line
We hope the information above has taught you everything about speciality brands.
Enjoy a cup of creaminess, sweetness, and pleasant aroma!