For most of the time we’ve known coffees to be traded as a commodity. Some claim it is the second most traded commodity in the world after coal. However, when talking about specialty coffee, there is a specialty coffee association of the world, headquartered in the United States of America which has laid out rules for judging whether a coffee is awarded the specialty tag or not. Coffees must be traceable to the origin, farm region, plot of land and date of harvest. There is a very narrow window for defects in coffee and decent amount of emphasis must be made on the post-harvest processing of coffee cherries. Once they’re roasted on a specialty coffee roaster and profiled according to their terroir, the coffees must be let to de-gas and develop flavours. With a lot of precision in several parameters like temperature, weight and time, coffee must be brewed at a certain ratio and must be sipped in a certain manner.
All of this helps us bring a fair system to tasting coffees from across the world and taste nuances in each cup. Upon tasting, each cup is judged on several parameters like body, acidity, strength, aroma and aftertaste and given scores out of 100. Whatever scores above 80, is awarded a specialty grade.
This however does not mean a coffee that scores less than 80, according to the set guidelines, is not great coffee. We have to always remember, coffee is agriculture first and commodity much later. We must embrace that coffee is a living being and changes with every human, every bit of air, water, temperature, moods, space and time.