What is Specialty Coffee?

You're at your local grocery store doing a little morning shopping. You remember that you are out of coffee so you stroll over to the coffee aisle to weigh your options. You notice that there are an overwhelming amount of choices at vastly different price points. Robusta, Arabica, dark roast, light roast, single-origin, blend, how are you supposed to keep up? Doesn't all coffee just have that same bitter taste that you're going to drown out with cream and sugar anyway? Why would you pay $15 for 12oz of coffee when you can pay $9 for 1lb?!?!? In this post, I want to argue that coffee, just like wine, beer, and whiskey has different teirs of quality and tastiness. Specialty coffee (which is strictly what we sell) is the equivalent to your "top shelf" alcohols or your craft beers.


First, we need to distinguish the difference between "Robusta" and "Arabica" coffee. Arabica coffee accounts for about 60% of the coffee produced every year while Robusta accounts for about 40% (Source). Arabica is “widely considered superior to its counterpart Robusta in flavor complexity, sweetness, balance, and acidity." (Source). Most of that $9/lb coffee you see at the store is going to be Robusta since it's almost half as expensive (and half as tasty) as Arabica coffee from the coffee farms (Source). Robusta is the boxed wine of the coffee world.


Now within just Arabica coffee, there are even more tiers of quality. Coffee is graded on a 100 point scale. Aroma, flavor, aftertaste, acidity, body, uniformity, balance, clean cup, sweetness, and overall taste are each graded on a 0 to 100 scale, and then added up to get the final score of the coffee. In order to be considered "specialty coffee," it has to score an 80 or above on this scale! Only around 37% of coffees produced would be considered specialty grade. The main reasons for this drastic increase in quality are due to the meticulous effort put in by these coffee farms and more superior coffee processing methods and technology. Just like there is a drastic difference between Robusta and Arabica coffee, what's even crazier is an 88 point coffee compared to a 80 point coffee can sometimes taste lightyears better!


Coffee is a staple in most people's daily routines, something consumed every day. You would never recommend someone to go cheap on a mattress, shoes, or other goods used that are used daily. So treat yourself to some specialty coffee, you deserve it ;)


In the words of one of my favorite poets Meek Mill "there's levels to this".


- Carson



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