What makes specialty coffee so special?
The short answer: it tastes better.
The long answer: it involves increased intentionality and deeper awareness in every step, from farm to pour.
When you sip your morning coffee, you are on the receiving end of a Hobbit-worthy journey. A lowly pit of a coffee cherry travels many miles, through many hands, and climactically transforms into noble deliciousness. The specialty coffee movement honors that story of the bean and ensures it remains a good story for everyone involved. That’s what makes specialty coffee so special. The people are valued, the process is ethical, and the product is delightful.
While taste is indeed on the tongue of the beholder, there are certified cuppers (coffee pros). Cuppers take into account attributes like aroma, aftertaste, flavor, body, balance, and sweetness, before handing out a final score on a 100-point grading scale. Just like in grade school, every coffee is, of course, special in its own way, right? Well, maybe, but let’s be real: not everyone is going to graduate high school. Coffees with a score of 80 or above are specialty.
The coffee plant’s locale plays a pivotal role in the narrative of the bean. The soil, the altitude, the oxygen, the weather, and more, all play critical parts in conceiving a complex and interesting bean.
Farmers hand-pick and sort through coffee cherries. They extract the bean from the cherry in one of three ways (washed, natural, or honey) before exporting the green beans to the roaster. Quality roasters call the natural goodness to center stage before baristas carefully brew.
Every step in the coffee’s journey is essential to preserving and highlighting the natural nuances of the bean. But, unlike commodity coffees, which are ubiquitous among large coffee chains, the specialty movement treats the process more like an art than a production line. In specialty coffee, quantity takes a back seat to quality.
Most importantly, the movement of specialty coffee takes into account the people so as to ensure an ethical system and a fair work environment for all, something the for-profit coffee industry hasn’t always considered. The world of specialty coffee promotes win-win partnerships through consciously-sourced beans, cutting the middlemen, building relationships with farmers, and thus providing a better tasting and more guilt-free cup.
So, that’s what makes specialty coffee so special: the people, the product, and the process. At Runabout, we like to say it this way in our core belief: “We believe coffee is made special by a commitment to each other, excellence, and experimentation.”