barista pouring coffee beans in a blender

What is Specialty Coffee?

Specialty Coffee is an industry that values quality, community involvement, sustainability and cooperation. The journey begins at the farmer level by selecting premium beans from specific micro-lots that have been grown at various altitudes and climates across the globe.

Beans are carefully processed before being roasted to develop complex flavors, before being sold to roasters who create unique profiles for every bean they roast.

What is Specialty Coffee


Coffee thrives best at high altitudes, requiring expert farming and care from dedicated specialty farmers who pride themselves on cherry-picking for quality rather than quantity. This results in better tasting coffee while supporting families, communities and the environment sustainably.

To be considered specialty beans, they must pass three levels of inspection: no Category 1 defects that affect taste and no more than five Category 2 defects are allowed on any bean; and it must score above 80 on a 100 point scale.

Roasters create custom profiles for each bean to highlight its natural flavours. Finally, baristas use these carefully selected and roasted beans to produce beverages of choice for consumers. Baristas are well versed on how each specific bean reveals itself through its own brewing process; enthusiasts have long valued its superior taste and artisan methods used by specialty coffee producers.


When discussing specialty coffee, we refer to its production with care and diligence at every step of its supply chain – from cultivation and harvest to processing, green storage, roasting and finally brewing. The coffee industry recognizes this fact; as quality can be affected at each step.

According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), specialty coffee must meet minimum standards at each step for classification as specialty, such as scoring 80 or above on an 80 point scale; only picking mature beans; and no more than 5 defects per 350 grams (12 ounces) of green coffee.

Knowledgeable buyers also look for an unmistakable supply chain which displays specific details about the coffee they purchase, such as plant variety, growing region, estate details and processors. In addition, knowledgeable buyers ensure that farmers and workers receive fair compensation – helping preserve high standards for specialty coffee. In the end, it all boils down to taste.


Finding high quality coffee and roasting it correctly are the final steps in producing an exceptional cup of coffee. Specialized roasters and brewing equipment ensure freshness while creating different roast profiles to highlight each bean’s individual flavors.

Final products consist of coffee with nuanced flavors and origin characteristics that reflect the care taken throughout its supply chain. This is what defines specialty, not simply high cupping scores but rather an ongoing movement towards better-tasting coffee where farmers, roasters, baristas, and all other members of the coffee industry are treated fairly. Direct trade has grown increasingly popular as roasters visit and work directly with their farmers; cutting out catalogue and warehouse middlemen allows direct traders to forge relationships that benefit both parties directly.


Farmers who specialize in specialty coffee dedicate themselves to cultivating the highest-quality beans at specific altitudes and climates. After tending their crops for years, they carefully select only those devoid of defects before selling it at a premium to either coffee exporters or roasters whose roasters create custom profiles tailored specifically to each coffee that enhance the natural flavors of its beans.

Final step in producing specialty coffee is its brewing. Brewing to a higher standard requires using an appropriate amount of water at an ideal temperature over an extended period to accentuate its characteristic flavors and create its signature taste. Thanks to advances in agricultural, roasting and brewing technology and rising consumer demand for higher-grade beans, specialty coffee has now reached widespread audiences and millions enjoy its pleasure daily.