Once we took cans off the shelves of the nearest grocery store because that was the only option. Countries of origin mattered not, because they all tasted about the same anyway. Eventually we began experimenting. Ice cream, chocolate, and whipped cream became additions to our drinks, and a variety of sweeteners made coffee exciting again.
Somewhere along the way we realized that some coffees don’t need sweeteners to be palatable, because they are quite good on their own. We investigated and discovered that the path to excellent coffee involved not only how we roasted it and brewed it, but also where and how it was grown. It was more complex than we could have dreamed.
Specialty coffee is a tradition, a mindset to how we approach coffee that seeks to find balance in every step of the supply chain. There are many ways we go about this, more than we can count, but they all revolve around the fundamental idea that the people who create coffee, in every step of the journey, ought to be honored by the next person down the coffee line through hard work, careful stewardship, and a globally-minded attitude.
The Hands that Grow
Coffee begins as a seed inside a cherry on a plant. Invested farmers care for these delicate crops with incredible devotion. Their lives depend on it. Through hard work and research, coffee producers learn to grow coffee that tastes incredible, but the struggle continues. Climate change and disease are always knocking on the door of coffee growers around the world.
To honor our friends around the globe who dedicate their lives to a seed of a cherry, specialty coffee invests in ways unheard of before in the coffee world. Direct trade relationships bridge the gap between grower and roaster, cutting out the middleman. Giving-back projects often target under-educated and malnourished areas of coffee producing countries, offering hope and sustainability to the farming communities.
Specialty coffee looks back down the chain and sees the coffee growers as the powerful origin of our great beverage. This is manifest on coffee packaging, where details about the processing, farm, and farmers are often available. Specialty coffee honors the hands that grow.
The Hands that Roast
Coffee beans arrive at roasters all over the world who carefully and scientifically roast them to find and highlight their best attributes. Sure, it may be easier to roast them all dark and sacrifice flavor for convenience, but that doesn’t honor the hands that grew the coffee. Roasting technique and theory has exploded to adapt the changing coffee climate, and roasters are finding new ways to roast that give the beans a chance to shine and pay homage to their origin region and farmers.
Specialty coffee acknowledges the potential of each coffee and aims to unlock it through careful roasting.
The Hands that Brew
Sealed bags make their way to coffee shops and homes where excited coffee drinkers take their time to prepare each cup with the responsibility of a good steward. These globally-minded brewers and drinkers sometimes use particular equipment to give the coffee its final push to excellence.
Some people mock the use of specialized kettles and kitchen scales, but what else are we to do if we want to honor the hands that roasted and those that grew the coffee beans. For such an amazing agricultural product, amazing brewing methods ought to be used.
Specialty coffee sees the beautiful story of coffee even in its last moments, as it is brewed and becomes its final form. No step of the journey is insignificant. Every chapter deserves to be read.
At last, we took that sip of coffee and delighted in its flavor and aromas. As we reflected on its journey from bean to cup and the people who took it along that road, we realized that we had not yet arrived at our destination of complete balance in the coffee world and chain.
We are just getting started.