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If you’re a regular coffee drinker, you might have been wondering why there is so much fuss about specialty or premium coffee. Specialty coffees are types of coffee that are generally graded above 80 points on a scale of 100. This score is given either by a licensed Q grader or a certified coffee taster.
It’s nurtured in the perfect altitude, at the best time of the year, in the finest soil, and harvested at the right time. It’s grown with careful attention, selectively handpicked, and sold at premiums directly to coffee roasters or traders.
Kenya, Ethiopia, and Columbia are some of the top producers of specialty coffee. Mexico, Guatemala, and Indonesia also have their fair share of specialty coffees that are noted for their unique and interesting flavors. On the other hand, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States of America are the top consumers of specialty coffee. In New Zealand and Australia, specialty coffee is also very popular.
To retain the coffee bean’s flavor, specialty coffee is usually roasted lighter than other types of coffee. Unlike commercial coffee, which is roasted darker and packed on a large scale, specialty coffee is usually roasted in small portions in small factories or stores using traditional methods. Since specialty coffee roasters get their beans directly from the farmer, it’s easy to trace the source of a particular batch.
For example, Nottingham based specialty coffee roasters work closely with their customers and are committed to having open conversations about the coffee they roast right from the farmer up to the final product in their cups.
Choosing Specialty Coffee
Specialty coffee can be sourced from the same beans as regular coffee, the difference mainly lies in the production and roasting process. To determine what is a specialty coffee, there are four elements you must look into:
- Origin: As mentioned, specialty coffee is prepared in smaller batches and their farms or manufacturers are usually proud of that fact. The packaging of specialty coffee must be able to tell you the origin of the beans and the farming or production methods used. The more specific the details are, the higher the quality of that specialty coffee is.
- Roast Date: Producers of specialty coffee are conscious of the quality and freshness of their product, so the exact roast date must also be provided on the packaging. If you want the best quality, you must pick a batch with the most recent roast date.
- Roast Level: Specialty coffee can be either light, medium, or dark roast. These are also indicated in the packaging. Do take note that dark roasted specialty coffee is not similar to dark roasted regular coffee. It only means that the bean is of darker brown color compared to other specialty varieties.
- Specific Flavor Notes: Specialty coffee is more specific when it comes to flavor notes. For example, it could tell you that the coffee has an aroma of almond butter and may have hints of clove with a silky feel. non-specialty coffee will only list vague or generic descriptors such as “heavy body” or “rich fruity sweetness.”
Single-Origin Or Blended
Specialty coffee can also be either from a single origin or a specialty blend.
- Single-Origin – From the name itself, single-origin specialty coffee means that the beans are sourced from only one place or farm. This is the perfect choice if you’re planning to taste or get the full experience of a certain variety. For example, coffee from Bali would taste very differently from coffee that originated in Nicaragua—or even from its neighboring island of Sumatra.
- Blended – As you might have already inferred, a specialty blend is composed of coffee beans that are sourced from different parts of the world. This type of specialty coffee will have a wider variety of flavors and could even be customized to fit the preference of the drinker. Compared to single-origin coffee, blended varieties are the best types for preparing lattes and cappuccinos. In other words, they are perfect for those who like some milk in their coffee.
Specialty coffees that are of single-origin are generally more expensive and are rather rare. This is because they are grown in specific regions at high altitudes and are therefore more difficult to plant, harvest, and import. Due to these conditions, only a small quantity is produced in every harvesting season. Needless to say, single-origin specialty coffee is not always available compared to blended varieties.
What Are The Benefits Of Specialty Coffee?
The meticulous process of producing and brewing specialty coffee is worth it because it is loaded with many benefits. Read on to discover what these are:
Boosts Energy Levels
Specialty coffee has a good amount of caffeine which stimulates the heart, central nervous system, muscles, and blood pressure. This stimulating effect will charge your body and help increase energy levels. The increased energy levels will decrease fatigue and boost brain function. Neurotransmitters like dopamine will also be activated.
Dopamine is known to improve concentration and alertness and also enhances certain aspects of brain function. Consuming specialty coffee will therefore lead to higher productivity because it’ll keep you active for longer. This means you can be more efficient at work or school, and it helps you stay focused on whatever important tasks you have for the day.
Improves Metabolism And Helps With Weight Loss
It’s easier for you to lose weight when your metabolic rate is high. When you consume specialty coffee, the increased activity will cause your body to push harder and therefore burn more calories.
For instance, drinking pure black coffee 30 minutes before a workout will make your body sweat more resulting in a more effective session. Consuming specialty coffee before your meals can also help you manage your weight because it will control your appetite by reducing feelings of hunger and making you eat less.
Contains Valuable Nutrients
The nutrients found in certain varieties of coffee will vary depending on their growing conditions, origin, and processing method. Nutrients like niacin, riboflavin, manganese, potassium, and magnesium are usually present in specialty coffee. All these are beneficial to your body. However, you may have to drink more than one cup of specialty coffee each day to reach the recommended daily amount of such nutrients.
Can Be Used In Other Cuisines
Did you know that you can consume specialty coffee in other forms apart from the traditional brew? With a little creativity, you can make specialty coffee cakes, waffles, coffee-infused chocolate, yogurt, desserts, and pies!
Helps Reduce Stress Levels
As earlier mentioned, caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and encourages the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline which are responsible for your happiness and wellbeing. These neurotransmitters act as mild antidepressants and can lower feelings of depression.
The release of good neurotransmitters in your brain will leave you feeling more positive and less stressed. Coffee’s positive effects on mental health are also linked to its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties.
Promotes Good Gut Health
A healthy gut contains diverse microbiomes. It’s been found that people who consume at least four cups of specialty coffee every day benefit from polyphenol and soluble fiber that feed gut microbes while increasing their activity. Drinking specialty coffee can even help with bowel movements if you’re constipated.
Reduces The Risk Of Cancer
As mentioned earlier, specialty coffee is roasted lighter than its commercial counterparts. This is because the growers and producers aim to preserve the natural flavors and sweetness of the coffee.
Commercial types of coffee, on the other hand, are usually over-roasted to mask the low-quality beans they are using. Unfortunately, these over-roasted beans can make the coffee carcinogenic and therefore expose the drinker to a higher risk of cancer. With specialty coffee, however, there is no such risk since they are roasted just right.
Promotes Sustainable Production
Aside from the health and wellness benefits mentioned above, there are also a number of socio-economic benefits when you choose to consume specialty coffee. As previously mentioned, specialty coffee is produced and processed in relatively smaller batches compared to regular or commercial coffee. This does not just guarantee quality, but also promotes sustainable farming.
Specialty coffee is also a source of livelihood for a whole network of people starting from the farmer, to the laborers who handpick the coffee berries, the millers, roasters, transporters, up to the coffee store and the barista. While you may have to pay a premium price for specialty coffee, it is worth it—considering the type of community and sustainable practices you’re supporting.
Supports Ethical And Eco-Friendly Business Practices
Since they are produced in relatively lower quantities, specialty coffee is not processed in huge factories that emit harmful waste and toxins into the atmosphere. Their packaging is also locally sourced from ethical and eco-friendly materials that are just right for individual consumers.
For coffee drinkers who prefer natural and organically-grown coffee, specialty coffee is the only choice out there. Producers of specialty coffee are transparent about their planting and harvesting methods. This helps you make better choices when sourcing or choosing your coffee. While most specialty coffee growers are following organic agricultural methods, some of them haven’t been certified yet. With continued patronage, however, these farms can later have the time and resources to be certified as organic growers.
Allows You To Discover A Variety Of Flavor Profiles
If you’re a coffee enthusiast who is willing to take that coffee drinking experience to another level, specialty coffee is a perfect choice. Since their origin is traceable, it will let you discover different tastes, aromas, and flavors that each coffee-producing region has to offer. Who knows, you might even have a new favorite variety or special blend that you’ll be waiting for every season. You can also experiment and test out which specialty blend makes the best flat white, cappuccino, or espresso!
Guarantees Safety In Consumption
Again, specialty coffee is prepared carefully in small batches and is even handpicked by the producers themselves. This is not just to guarantee the quality of the coffee beans, but it also ensures that the coffee is safe for human consumption.
When the beans are not stored properly at the right temperatures, a harmful fungus can grow which could later endanger the health of the drinker. Specialty coffee is, however, produced and processed carefully. And because they are made in small batches, the producers and processors can pay more attention throughout the whole process.
Doesn’t Need Additional Cream Or Sugar
Since specialty coffee has its natural flavors and aroma intact, it does not need additional cream or sugar to taste better. This is the best choice for coffee drinkers who want to avoid extra sugar and calories. People with diabetes, for example, don’t have to worry about the bitter taste of this kind of coffee. Overall, it’s the healthier option!
Specialty coffee is indeed ‘special’ because they are produced, processed, and manufactured more carefully and selectively compared to regular or commercial coffee. Specialty coffee growers and manufacturers are also transparent about their production processes and practices. Drinkers can easily trace the origin of the coffee by simply looking at the packaging.
Consuming a cup of the best quality fresh coffee gives you peace of mind. You’ll be assured that the coffee you’re drinking is free from harmful toxins and carcinogens that may be present in regular coffee. You can also rest easy, knowing that the coffee has been grown and prepared in the best conditions possible to bring out the best aroma, taste, and consistency. Aside from that, you’ll be supporting a whole community of farmers and laborers who are not exploited to work in very dangerous and harmful conditions.
All in all, specialty coffee does not just guarantee health and wellness benefits, choosing them also has socio-economic benefits that make an impact on the lives of the producers and contribute to a more sustainable environment. And for coffee lovers, it is also a great way to take that coffee drinking experience to the next level!