Despite its aspirations for clarification, the term “specialty coffee” elicits just as much ambiguity as anything for many. You’re sure to have come across it at some point, especially as a Schuil drinker and blog reader -- after all, it’s all that we offer!
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Its meaning goes deeper than similar colloquialisms of “fine wine” and “craft beer”, however. The designation offers far more objectivity, and ultimately determines the prices paid to farmers for their work. Before we dive much further into its specifications, let’s take a look at how the classification came to be.
In the earlier days of coffee in the US, most established cities had a slew of their own micro-roasters - how hip! But, as consumption began to rise, big business saw the value in coffee roasting, and local roasters soon became national brands with mass distribution. As is typically the case in growing competitive marketplaces, when consumption and production volume grew, pricing margins became tighter and quality saw a decline. Despite the big players now at the table, a collection of small-scale, quality-focused roasters still remained across the country. They were determined to maintain the integrity of well-grown and well-roasted coffee, and united to form the Specialty Coffee Association of America in 1982.
Not too long after, the Coffee Review Scale was independently developed in 1997, and became integral in the SCAA’s objectivity in determining what qualified as “specialty coffee”. The scale evaluates individual elements of a coffee on a grading scale from 1 - 10, including aroma, flavor, aftertaste, acidity, body, balance, sweetness, uniformity, clean flavor, and overall performance. The composite total of these attributes then determines a coffee’s score, out of 100. The SCAA quickly adopted this scoring method, and declared that for a coffee to be deemed “specialty”, it must score between 80 and 100 points. To officially score a coffee, you must pass several rigorous sensory exams to become what’s known as a Q-grader.
As previously mentioned, Schuil is proud to exclusively offer specialty coffee, from our flavored options, to our deepest, darkest roasts. What’s more, we have 2 licensed Q-graders on staff (one being the youngest in the world!), to ensure that we offer the best coffees at the best value to our customers. For some more context on how coffee is scored, you can take a look at SCA’s official scoring document.
Now through March 31st, you can receive $15 off all specialty coffee orders of $75 to be shipped to your home!