Skip to content

What Is Specialty Coffee?

This week, in our Cafe@Home series, we explored what makes some coffee Specialty Coffee. We learned that specialty coffee is the "best of the best" and is typically the top 10% of arabica beans. We also discovered that robusta is not specialty coffee. Let's delve a little deeper into this fascinating subject.

specialty coffee


Where Did The Term Come From

Erna Knutsen of Knutsen Coffees first used the term "specialty-grade coffee" in the mid-1970s. In a speech to a group of coffee professionals in France, she argued that companies could sell some coffee according to the small batches from specific coffee farms. As most coffee comes from multiple farms and is mixed together to form larger barrels, this idea seemed quite revolutionary.

What IS Specialty-Grade Coffee?

Most coffee comes from either extremely large coffee farms or, as was mentioned, is a mixture of coffee from a large number of coffee farms all in the same area. Specialty-grade coffee, which is also considered small-batch coffee or micro-lot coffee, is kept separate and is not lumped in with coffee from other farms. This coffee is graded and has received a score of 80 or above according to the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) standards.

How Is Coffee Graded?

Specialty coffee goes through two grading sessions. It is first graded as a green, unroasted coffee bean. The beans are evaluated on color, water content, and level of micro-organisms. After grading the green beans, they move on to the next phase, cupping. To learn more about cupping, you can check out our series here. For the second step in grading the coffee, those performing the grading will roast, grind, and brew the coffee. They will then sniff and slurp the coffee to assess the aromas, flavors, and mouthfeel. This process is not unlike a wine tasting.

The inspectors tally the results and, as long as the score is 80 or higher on the 100-point SCA scale, award the coffee with the specialty moniker.

Where Can You Get Specialty Coffee?

So, now you're intrigued and are interested in trying specialty-grade coffee? You've come to the right place! Here at CoffeeAM, you know we have a wide selection of gourmet coffees to choose from. But did you know we also have specialty coffees? We do! Here are some choices of specialty coffees to add to your repertoire.

El Salvador Finca Montes Urales

This Salvadoran coffee is a prime example of specialty coffee. Our El Salvador Finca Montes Urales grows high in the mountains on a small family farm. The soaring altitudes and volcanic soil give this coffee a fruity flavor and full body you are sure to enjoy.

Kenya Kiangai AA

This AA coffee from Kenya is a best-selling favorite. AA refers to the size of the coffee beans. AA beans are much larger than typical coffee beans. Our Kenya Kiangai AA grows in the mountains of Central Kenya. The climate in this region produces two growing seasons. Sweet and fruity in both taste and aroma, this complex coffee will brighten your day.

Organic Bolivia 'La Paz'

This specialty coffee is a collaboration of a co-op of twelve micro-farmers in a region of Bolivia near La Paz. Our Organic Bolivia La Paz is not only a small batch coffee, but it is also grown without the use of dangerous chemicals or fertilizers. You are sure to enjoy the mouthwatering notes of sweet citrus and rich milk chocolate from this delightful coffee.

Organic Haitian Blue Mountain

Haitian Blue Mountain coffee is the same varietal of coffee, grown in the same type of soil, like Blue Mountain coffee from Jamaica. Our Organic Haitian Blue Mountain comes from three micro-farms in the Nord region of Haiti. It has the same buttery mouthfeel, silky sweetness, and milk chocolate notes you've come to expect from Blue Mountain coffee.

Now that you know more about the world of specialty coffee, it's time to explore on your own. Which coffee do you plan to try first?

Previous article Mix Things Up with Tea