What’s the deal with Specialty Coffee?

SCA score sheet
SCA score sheet

Specialty coffee, gourmet coffee, third-wave coffee. They are not all the same. As a term, ‘specialty coffee’ has experienced decades of usage throughout the industry, and is now understood as an effective means of branding high-quality coffee. Here is a quick rundown on the ins-and-outs of specialty coffee:


It is believed that Erna Knutsen (known as the ‘godmother of specialty coffee’) coined the term ’specialty coffee’ in 1978, and was a strong proponent for the promotion and development of the sourcing, quality and tasting of coffee. Since then, the term has received a copious amount of development and evolution. Today, the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) uses particular metrics for grading specialty coffee. These metrics can provide a sufficient review of the coffee throughout the various stages of the life cycle. 


There is a strict technical definition for ‘specialty coffee’, and the prerequisites for branding a coffee as ‘specialty’ are threefold. First, coffee has to obtain a quality score minimum of 80 on the SCA 100-point scale. Second, unroasted coffee beans with too many defects will automatically be disqualified from being graded as ‘specialty’. Third, the grading is conducted by certified coffee taster (SCA) or licensed Q Grader (CQI).


The coffee supply chain is uniquely complex, as there are so many actors in the chain itself. Unlike wine (which can have a single individual responsible for all the processes involved between planting to drinking), the coffee supply chain is built on the exchange between farmers, processors, intermediaries, roasters and brewers. This complexity increases the volatility of quality, requiring an established method for judging the quality of the product at the end of the supply chain. Due to the desired minimising of defects within the coffee, there is also a duty of care in the cultivating and harvesting of the coffee. Every stage of the process, from balancing the ideal cultivar, microclimate and soil chemistry, to following the best processing methods, must be understood and properly executed. Coffee producers and baristas also believe that specialty coffee should be built on communication. If a highly graded coffee is given to a customer that does not understand the quality of the product that they have received, then it is not deemed as a success. That being said, advocates of the specialty coffee product should ensure that it is supported by coherent information, along with the most effective tools for transmitting the information to the consumer.

Rozali Coffee is proudly to bringing a range of delicious and high-quality specialty coffee from all around the world, to the coffee cups of our local customers. Just like you, we get annoyed by a tasteless and bitter cup of coffee. Thankfully, we can deliver a cup of coffee that is balanced and delicious.