Craft or Specialty Coffee: Is there any difference?
author: Domagoj Trusić 29.06.2020.
reading time: 5 minuta
What hides behind these popular names? Is this a new trend or a movement? Learn all about the journey from coffee bean to a supreme quality cup
It all started with the beer, as many good things do. Then it continued with craft burgers, chocolate, distillates... We are aficionados of this entire scene. Some would say we are followers of a trend. But, we prefer to think we are the movement’s conscious participants.
We'd like to shed some light on a difference between terms craft and specialty when speaking on our favourite subject – one which we feel we are most equipped to talk about– and that is coffee.
Craft presumes something a product that is infused with creativity, produced locally from hand-made quality ingredients and in small series. Such a product always has a story of its origination – most often referring to the organic cultivation and an ecological approach.
You will not commit a crime if you say our coffee is craft, but as the true aficionados of this exalted beverage, you probably want to understand what is connoted by term specialty and what's the difference between those two attributions.
This is not a colloquial term. In order to earn this attribute, coffee has to travel an entire and defined path – from cultivation to a cup. Each stop on this journey is important and depends on the skill of more than one pair of hands (which is the rule when speaking on anything labeled as craft).
At the start of one of our educational courses, one of the students asked how did I prepare specialty coffee.
I admit I don't mind people thinking I possess some hidden super-powers, but I have never succeeded in preparing specialty coffee from commercially cultivated coffee varieties. This is, as you will learn, simply not possible.
What I could do is to ruin the effort that was invested in enabling the coffee to reach our micro- roasting plant and yet not drawing out all of its potentials. This would happen if I didn't know and respect all the laws and all the science that stands behind the transformation of raw coffee beans into those aromatic ones we know as coffee.
Doing this would be something I consider a crime.
But lets us retrace our steps and return to the beginning of the coffee story.
The story begins with Mother Nature
The story starts at higher altitudes, on quality soils, with hands that cultivate this wondrous plant. Most often these are families that have been living from coffee cultivation for generations.
As a rule, after harvesting coffee cherries the farmers sacrifice a part of their harvest because this coffee has to achieve a high score – more than 80 of a possible 100 on a grade score range. This score grade, which is decided by the independent panel of coffee tasters, confirms that the raw bean complies with the standards above the commercial class, above the industrial product which we are accustomed to.
The coffee tasting method is called cupping. It is standardized, replicable, and the same for all coffee tasters.
(We will cover this subject in more detail in our future blogs).
The process of procuring raw coffee includes educated coffee tasters, who can recognize its quality and identify supreme quality coffee with certainty.
The commercial coffee industry does not comply with the above described demanding standards, which is the reason why commercial selection is not ruthless. And yet, the farmers' hands are not paid fairly. The industry does not care about the hands of farmers, hence small farms slowly die away. The approach promoted by specialty coffee covers the expenses of the farmers, motivating them to keep cultivating the coffee. Everyone in the specialty coffee movement is very much aware that without those farmers there would be no supreme quality coffee.
The entire system of the non-industrialized environment is strongly connected with nature and offers authentic and precise information on variety, origin, type of processing, and date of roasting. You get to know both style and profile in your cup, through the attached organoleptic cards and a suggested preparation recipe.
By tasting specialty coffee, you develop and expect your cup to offer more than a usual morning caffeine kick.
If you want such a quality coffee cup, you have to consider that the person who prepares it is also important. For all those reasons, this coffee is not (and will probably never be) present at each and every corner. This is the coffee that will motivate you to take those few extra steps needed to reach the place that embodies this philosophy and where an educated barista will prepare you a tasty cup.
Once you’ve done it, you will not be sorry! Even the untrained palate can sense a difference in the first sip of such a coffee.
This is a matter of nuances, but also of an entire range of impressing aromas.
It's not unusual to learn discerning the flavours of strawberry, raspberry, or even orange in your coffee.
Last but not least, the aroma that imbues every single cup of specialty coffee is that good feeling, the knowledge that by choosing it you have supported the work of industrious hands from the beginning of this story. And that’s not all. You've also supported a local micro-roasting plant as well as the education of baristas who are prepared to share their coffee enthusiasm with you at all times.
Only if you wish so, of course.
Otherwise, they will leave you at peace, to enjoy your cup as a quiet participant of this movement that promotes sustainability, transparency, and community.