top of page

What is specialty coffee?

Think of it as the coffee industry's equivalent to fine wine, craft beer, or artisan chocolate. It is a product crafted with care that focuses on quality, taste, distinctiveness and relationships.


Speciality coffee refers to the whole process of making coffee, from the farm, to the roastery, to the coffee shop:

At the farm and origin


Coffee farmers who produce specialty grade coffee focus on quality over quantity. Coffee comes from a plant that produces a fruit, called a cherry. The coffee cherries are literally hand-picked during harvest so only those at their optimal ripeness and free of defects are picked. Seeds

are then squeezed out from the cherry to produce a green coffee bean - there a three main different types of processes for this: washed, natural and honey, and these processes will also have an impact on how the coffee beans eventually taste. Throughout these processes there is selection of the best coffee beans, so every step of coffee production is labour intensive to produce the best results.

Once farmers have their final product ready to sell, the beans are evaluated by certified people to determine if they are of speciality grade (score of 80 and above on a 100-point scale by Specialty Coffee Association).

Through cupping, these specialists also identify the taste and flavours present in the coffee beans, which is passed onto the roaster.

Test your coffee knowledge


What is 'The Coffee Belt'?

a) Something worn by a barista

b) The region around the world where coffee grows

c) A piece of roasting equipment

c) A market that sells coffee.


What part of the coffee plant is used to produce coffee drinks?

a) The root

b) The bark

c) The seed

d) The leaf


Which of the following are NOT species of coffee?

a) Caturra

b) Robusta

c) Arabica

d) Bourbon


What is a Q grader?

a) Barista equipment

b) Influencer

c) Certified coffee professional

d) Coffee variety


What is the score coffee beans have to achieve to be considered speciality grade?

a) Between 1 and 100 points

b) Less than 80 points

c) Between 80 and 100 points

d) Points don't matter


When buying speciality coffee, what should we be looking for regarding the date?

a) Use by date

b) Roasted on date

c) Best before date

d) Coffee stays fresh forever


How is it recommended to buy coffee?

a) Whole beans

b) Ground coffee

c) It depends on the method

d) It doesn't matter


Which of the following is NOT a part of an espresso recipe?

a) Temperatrue

b) Time

c) Yield

d) Dose

reveal answer

b. The Coffee Belt is located along the equator within the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

reveal answer

c. The seeds inside the coffee fruit, also called a cherry, are roasted and ground to produce coffee beverages. 

reveal answer

a & d. Caturra and Bourbon are actually varieties of the Arabica species. The vast majority of coffee is produced from Robusta and Arabica species. Most speciality coffee uses Arabica beans. 

reveal answer

c. A Q grader is a certified coffee professional who evaluates the quality of coffee beans and gives them a classification ion a scale of 1 - 100.

reveal answer

c. A coffee bean has to achieve a score of 80 points or more to be considered specialty grade.

reveal answer

b. We should look for a 'Roasted on date' as the fresher the roast,

the better. 

reveal answer

a. It is recommended to buy whole beans and grind them just before brewing in order to enjoy their freshness and full taste.

reveal answer

a. When we make an espresso shot, we consider the weight (dose) of the coffee grind, the length of time water passes through the coffee, and the final weight (yield) that is produced.

reveal answer

a. Temperatrue. When we make an espresso shotk we consider the weight (dose) of the coffee grind, the length of time the water passes through the coffee, and the final weight (yield) that is produced.

Learn more

Specialty Coffee association

SCA is a nonprofit organisation that represents thousands of coffee professionals from producers to baristas all over the world.



Caffeine is the award winning bi-monthly magazine for coffee lovers, and trusted guide to the world of speciality coffee.

Perfect Daily Grind

A world leading specialty coffee publication and media company, which writes about the whole supply chain: from seed to cup.

Sprudge Media Network

A global hub for coffee culture and original journalism since 2009, using coffee as a lens to see the wider world around us.


coffee trip

European Coffee Trip is an online magazine and guide for Speciality coffee culture in Europe, including articles, interviews, photos, videos!

bottom of page