What is ‘Speciality Coffee’?

Erna Knutsen pioneered the term ‘Speciality Coffee’ back in 1974 earning herself the title “The Queen of Speciality Coffee” in the process. In 1973, real coffee consumption in the USA was at an all-time low, with instant and brewed coffee tasting almost indistinguishable. Recognising a growing demand for better quality coffee, Knutsen began selling emerging roasters, looking for a specialised product, smaller quantities of high quality beans paving the way for a shift towards quality over quantity in a market dominated by huge commercial roasters buying coffee by the container load.  The emerging speciality market focussed on approaching coffee as a product to be appreciated, while celebrating the greatest growing regions and farms, much like fine wine. So, after five decades, here we are today!

What makes Reads ‘Speciality’?

Achieving the Speciality standard is a collaborative effort involving everyone in the coffee production chain, from cultivation, through shipping, roasting and brewing, ultimately to consumption.  These days, Speciality Coffee Association of America (SCA) classifies coffee that scores above 80 (/100) on their taste and attributes scale as ‘Speciality’.  Commercial grade scores lower, which is fine for mass produced filter, espresso and instant, but doesn’t make for a very special start to your morning!  So, in short, here at Reads we only buy in and roast high scoring coffees for our single origins.

1. The Farmers

With the emergence of speciality grade coffee, generations of dedicated farmers have been refining their farming techniques to cultivate the finest beans. Producers of specialty coffee prioritise quality over quantity, selecting only defect-free beans at peak ripeness. By connecting with quality-conscious buyers, these farmers support individuals, families and communities worldwide while delivering unparalleled coffee excellence.

2. The Green Coffee Buyer 

Green coffee buyers, themselves mainly certified as Q-Graders by the SCA Coffee Skills Program, possess a refined and tested palate, akin to a sommelier, expertly assessing coffee quality through cupping. This process allows them to evaluate a coffee’s grade and create detailed tasting notes. Green coffee buyers plays a pivotal role in conveying coffee information to roasters, so, here at Reads, we choose to work only with the buyers we regard as the best!

3. The Roaster

This is where we come in! After carefully buying high quality beans,  we roast skilfully, in small batches and with an eye for detail that creates a roast profile to best suit each region or farm. Coffee is closely monitored during the roasting process to ensure that our unique roast flavour emerges in the freshly roasted bean. Once roasted, our beans are checked and critiqued by our resident expert, who is always looking for ways we can refine or improve our roasts. Beans are then packed ‘fast and fresh’, ready for dispatch to our customers!

4. The ‘Barista’

What’s the point of roasting a great coffee if it can’t be turned into a great brew.  Very often, with coffee, the problems lie in the brewing, so through providing training sessions, detailed brewing information and courses for both our commercial and home user customers we help the Barista , whether professional or amateur to ensure that our coffee matches its promise whenever, and however it is brewed.

5. The Consumer

It is in fact YOU, ‘the Consumer’ that is the ultimate arbiter of what defines Speciality Coffee, by prioritising quality and taking time to seek out, choose, brew and enjoy the speciality option, while taking an extra moment to learn about the story behind your cup, you are helping the world of fine coffee thrive – which can only be a good thing, for all of us!

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