Speciality Coffee has been around for a long time. We tend to think of speciality coffee as being a new trend, yet even as far back as the turn of the century, knowledgable buyers had very specific criteria when looking for their coffee beans. It needed to be bought from select micro-lots on specific farms in certain regions of the world.
The term “Specialty Coffee” was first used in the 1970s in the Tea and Coffee Trade Journal, just a few years after the opening of the first Starbucks store. Thanks to stores like Starbucks and Peet’s, coffee went from a modern convenience to a drinking experience. Since then, improvements in agricultural, roasting and brewing technology, and an increased demand for high-quality coffee have put speciality coffee in the hands of coffee lovers across the globe.
Green coffee is graded via visual inspection and cupping. Visual inspection involves taking a 350g sample of green coffee beans and counting defective beans. Defects can be Primary (e.g. black beans, sour beans) or Secondary (e.g. broken beans). For a coffee to qualify as “Speciality”, it must have zero Primary defects and less than five Secondary defects.
Cupping involves roasting the coffee and brewing simply with hot water, and relies on the skill of the taster to assign scores to each of the coffees attributes, such the acidity, body, flavor and aroma.
In the United States, speciality coffee is spreading nationwide. The popularity of Specialty Roasters like Belleair Coffee Company are becoming as well-known as their more commercial counterparts. Daily consumption of speciality coffee in America has risen from 9% in 1999 to 34% in 2014.
Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, a recent report by Allegra predicts that the speciality coffee market is set for a 13% year on year growth, higher than the 10% predicted for the coffee market as a whole. The result of speciality coffees increasing popularity is mirrored in high street chains, as Starbucks and Costa continue to introduce limited edition single origin coffees in stark contrast to their super-dark roasts or high robusta-content blends. Allegra’s report also predicted a doubling of the current 1,400 speciality coffee shops by 2020, and a year on year growth rate of 17% for the UK roasted speciality coffee market.