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What is Specialty Coffee & what makes it so Special

New to specialty coffee? What’s all the fuss about?

If you’ve been to a coffee shop, you might well have heard the term “Specialty Coffee” used to describe the coffee the barista is serving up. Sounds good! I mean it’s got the word “special” in it, so it must be, well, special, no? But what exactly is so special about Specialty Coffee and what should you expect when ordering an Illu coffee?

In the most basic sense, Speciality Coffee refers to the number of points a coffee has received from a qualified “Q Grader” (the coffee equivalent of a sommelier). Coffees are blind-tasted or “cupped” using a “Brazilian Cupping method” which entails coarsely grinding a specific amount of coffee, brewing it with a specific amount of water and then slurping and smelling it after specific time periods to ascertain the coffee’s underlying flavours and aromas. 

The coffee is then graded from a score of 0-100, with 100 being the best, most flawless god-like coffee imaginable, and 0 being the equivalent of you not being able to tell whether what you’re drinking is potato water or coffee. A coffee is regarded as specialty if it scores 80 points or more, though many in the business have now set the bar unofficially at 85 points or more.

The description above is a gross simplification of what Speciality Coffee is and only really represents one of the many hurdles that a coffee has to overcome to be regarded as specialty, but it nonetheless is an acceptable definition if someone is looking for something concise.

If you’re interested in more detail dear reader, and want to strut your stuff to that cute barista at your local coffee shop, please read on!

What is the Difference Between Regular Coffee and Speciality Coffee

In today’s society amongst coffee drinkers, roasters, growers, etc — a regular coffee really is a sneaky way of saying low in quality and taste.

When drinking regular coffee, you can often be left with a bad aftertaste and a less than thrilling experience.

Conversely, speciality coffee means guaranteed quality through all stages of the coffee production from seed to cup.

Speciality Coffees are Brewed Differently

Speciality coffee is quality driven — not like all the other coffees out there. You can pretty much guess at this point that your normal run of the mill coffee in your local grocer would not be considered speciality coffee.

The most obvious difference between speciality coffee shops and other chain store coffee shops are the coffee brewing methods.

Speciality Coffee Sells Different that Regular Coffee

Most roasters who sell speciality coffee have one goal in mind — to be as transparent as possible when it comes to selling and sharing speciality coffee.

They want you to know where your coffee comes from. Not only that, but they want you to know the names of the farmers that they work with. Connecting to your coffee is important and they want you to see pictures, hear stories, and enjoy their hard work.