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What You Should Know About Specialty Coffees

gourmet coffee

Coffee that is free from faults, taints and other odors, as well as exhibiting distinctive attributes in fragrance, acidity and after taste are considered specialty coffees. This distinction also requires that there are no more than five full defects in a 350 gram sample and that it is free from underdeveloped beans. Specialty coffee is produced from beans of exceptional quality that are grown only in the best of climates; such that it brings out their unique and distinctive flavors because of the soil in which they are grown.

The term “specialty coffee” was first used in 1974 and it was used to describe coffee beans of outstanding flavor that were produced in special micro climates. With the surge of cafes, coffee houses and gourmet coffee retailers in the 1990s, it has become one of the fastest growing markets in the food service industry, which netted approximately $12.6 billion in the United States alone in 1997.

Artisans claim that specialty coffees refer to a high quality group of green coffee beans that become roasted to their best flavor potential and are then properly brewed to a set of high standards. Meaning that a specialty coffee is not just a particular brewing method, such as using an espresso machine, but by the dedication of all who have a part in producing the beans; from the planting, selective harvesting, careful processing to export preparation.

There is even an organization called the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), which is a trade organization for the specialty coffee industry. They want to set standards for growing, roasting and brewing of premium coffees. Members include retailers, producers, exporters, roasters and importers; as well as manufacturers of coffee equipment and related products. They have different expositions and seminars that they attend and constantly offer updates about what is happening in the world of specialty coffee.

Different coffee organizations around the world enter their finest coffees during the SCAA Roasters Guild, 3 day Cupping Competition for the chance to be recognized as having the world’s best specialty coffees. There are 30 judges who will thoroughly evaluate the taste and aroma of each sample entered in the contest. Six attributes of each coffee including aroma, taste, fragrance, aftertaste, flavor and body will be evaluated by the judges. The judges however, do not drink coffee mug after coffee mug full of hot coffee. They determine the winner by swirling a tablespoon size portion of coffee over the palate and then spitting it out without swallowing.

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