What is Specialty Coffee


Specialty coffee is a term used for coffee that has been carefully sourced. This is why you will find it only in select coffee shops where the baristas have been trained to brew it properly.

The process of achieving specialty begins with cultivation and continues through harvesting, processing and roasting. Throughout these stages, there are several checks that determine if the coffee qualifies as specialty.


Coffee grows differently from year to year due to weather conditions and soil quality. This is why commercial-grade coffee brands blend different coffees from multiple regions, ensuring that their supply can match demand.

In contrast, a single-origin Specialty coffee is only produced from one region. Its particular characteristics — whether fruity or floral, sweet or tart — should come through in each cup.

This kind of careful consideration extends to every step in the supply chain, from coffee farmers and green-coffee buyers to roasters and baristas. This approach allows a high degree of consistency from start to finish, which helps to deliver the distinctive flavor profiles for which Specialty coffee is known.

Specialty coffee also encourages experimentation among farmers, with the goal of delivering exceptional flavours to consumers. This can include unusual techniques like anaerobic fermentation processes, malic fermentation, or frozen natural processing. This is all possible because of the direct trade model, which enables communication between producers and roasters alike.


Coffee is a tree-like plant with branches and leaves that produce fruits called “cherries” or “beans.” The ripe cherries are hand-picked by farmers with care and patience to ensure the highest quality and then sent to the mill. From here, they go through a number of tests to see if they qualify as speciality coffee.

Some of the world’s most renowned specialty coffees come from countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Colombia. These countries have developed a culture of improving coffee at the farm level in order to improve their cupping scores.

In doing so, they have sparked a ‘third wave’ movement of consumers who demand exceptional coffee – and are willing to pay for it. In turn, this support has encouraged coffee-growing communities to reinvest in their crops and infrastructure to promote economic growth within these regions. The beans then make their way to roasters who develop the unique flavour profiles that define our specialty coffee.


Once the beans have been harvested, they must pass an evaluation process in order to be rated as speciality coffee. This is called coffee cupping and involves the physical and sensory observation of the beans to establish their flavour, acidity and body. Coffee buyers and baristas use this data to inform their brewing recipes.

Specialty coffee farmers and green coffee buyers are meticulous in their crop selection, choosing the ripest cherries. They have honed their skills over generations of trials and fails, so they know when a cultivar’s cherry is at its peak flavour. This makes their coffee taste much sweeter and fruitier than the supermarket brands.

Roasters take their time experimenting with different profiles to bring out the best in each bean, so that you get the maximum flavour from your cup of coffee. The result is a rich, delicious cup of joe that will make your day.


In the coffee industry, Specialty is often associated with the ‘third wave’- a modern demand for exceptional quality. This is reflected in an increasing awareness of the unique characteristics of different coffee species, farmed and brewed to an elevated standard.

From the farm to your mug, every step in this supply chain has been carefully considered and meticulously upheld. This ranges from the beans being grown at specific elevations, and in soil compositions that produce the unqiue flavours to their final rating – anything above an 80 on the SCA scale is considered speciality.

This is also reflected in the care taken throughout each stage of the roasting process, and the baristas themselves – you’ll often find that cafe staff talk openly about their favourites, and are constantly experimenting with their craft to perfect it. This is a good indicator of a true specialty cafe! The same applies for brewing methods. This is where the real magic happens, and you’ll be rewarded with an extraordinary cup of coffee.

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