What Makes Specialty Coffee So Special?

For those who haven’t yet been awakened to the wonders of morning gold, the question must be asked. What makes specialty coffee so special?

The short answer is it tastes better. The long answer is an increased intentionality and deeper awareness in every step, from farm to pour.

When you sip your morning coffee, you are on the receiving end of a Hobbit-worthy journey, where a lowly pit of a coffee cherry travels many miles, through many hands, transforming into noble deliciousness. The movement of specialty coffee honors that story of the bean and ensures it remains a good story for everyone involved. That's what makes specialty coffee so special. The people are valued, the process is ethical, and the product is delightful.*

The Product

While taste is indeed on the tongue of the beholder, there are certified cuppers (coffee pros) who designate varieties a number grade. Cuppers take into account attributes like aroma, aftertaste, flavor, body, balance, and sweetness, before factoring a final score on a 100-point grading scale. Just like in grade school, every coffee is, of course, special in its own way, right? Well, let’s be real: not everyone is going to graduate high school. A coffee has to score an 80 or above to be considered specialty.

So, next time Grandpa claims Folgers is the best part of waking up, school him with the facts.

The Process

Specialty coffee’s narrative starts with where the coffee plant is grown. The soil, the altitude, the oxygen, the weather, and more, all play critical parts in conceiving a complex and interesting bean. Once picked, the bean is extracted from the coffee cherry in one of three ways (washed, natural, or honey) before it is exported to the roaster, who summons the natural goodness to center stage. Finally, the coffee is brewed.

Every step in the coffee’s journey is essential to preserving and highlighting the natural nuances of the bean. While you wouldn’t be able to drink any coffee without these steps being followed, unlike commodity coffees, which are ubiquitous among large coffee chains, the specialty movement treats the process more like an art than a production line. In specialty coffee, quantity takes a back seat to quality.  

The People

Specialty coffee is not just about how the beans are processed, and it’s not even about the mouthwatering end product. The movement of specialty coffee takes into account the people so as to ensure an ethical system and a fair work environment for all, something the for-profit coffee industry hasn’t always considered. The world of specialty coffee promotes win-win partnerships through consciously-sourced beans, cutting the middlemen, building relationships with farmers and thus providing a more guilt-free and virtuous cup. Nothing tastes better than a clean cup of coffee with a clean conscious.

So, make yourself feel special by trying specialty coffee from Virtuous. It is of the highest importance to honor the story of the bean, and that’s exactly what we do.