All the coffees we deal with at Vaxx belong to the category of Specialty Coffee. The term Specialty Coffee does not only refer to the beans themselves or to the quality of the final product. On the contrary, it is related to the entirety of the supply chain, and it regards many more aspects than taste alone. Below, we will attempt to summarise some of the key aspects of Specialty Coffee. However, please bear in mind that what makes Specialty Coffee so exciting is its constant evolution, hence this summary is by no means exhaustive or all-inclusive. So let’s get started!
All Specialty coffee must be Arabica and belong to these two often interchangeable categories. Single Origin may refer to both large and small geographical areas, while Single Estate is linked to a single small producer, or a small co-operative of them. The reason why these two terms are often used interchangeably is explained below.
As the name suggests, Specialty Coffee’s taste and quality reflects the unique characteristics of specific micro-climates. Climate and altitude are selected by expert farmers, often families with multi-generational experience. Moreover, plants are nursed for years before the first harvest, prioritising quality over quantity. Only cherries that are free of defects and picked at their peak of ripeness make it to the next stages. Aiming for the highest possible standards benefits both producer and consumer: the first is able to aim for higher-profits, while the latter can be sure the product is worth its price.
Another key-element of Specialty Coffee is environmental responsibility along the whole length of the supply-chain. Starting from the farmer, producers like Daterra and Riocofre do a wonderful job of preserving biodiversity, reducing water footprint, protecting soil fertility and respecting the environment in general. Sustainable practices are equally important at the successive stages of processing, packaging and distribution. For instance, our packaging is entirely recyclable and our capsules are both compostable and biodegradable.
Even the best Specialty Beans that were grown in the most suitable micro-climate can be ruined by poor roasting. For this reason, Specialty Coffee roasters have a high degree of knowledge and experience. Also, they master the complicate scientific principles of heat transfer, thermodynamics and coffee chemistry that must be applied to coffee in order to obtain a Specialty Coffee level of roasting.
Specialty coffee needs to be cupped and graded by certified coffee tasters, also known as Q graders, which are the equivalent of wine sommeliers for coffee. Through cupping and systematic tasting of brewed coffees, Q graders can asses a Specialty Score from 1 to 100:
80-84.99: Very Good
Below 80: No grade (any coffees with a grade below 80 can’t be considered Specialty Coffee)
Moreover, Q graders can identify particular tasting notes and develop descriptions for the coffees they taste.
Simply put, the whole process from seed to cup needs to be traceable in order for a coffee to qualify as Specialty Coffee
Until the moment of brewing, Specialty Coffee is just a “potential”. In order for this potential to be expressed, brewing needs to occur correctly. This happens either at the hands of the trained Barista, or the educated Home Brewer, and it is as important as all the previous steps!