'Speciality coffee' - what's in a name

Written by co-owner Mark Dundon

A Google search reveals a huge list of coffee roasters, cafes and online retailers with only the word " specialty" as a common denominator. Beautiful descriptors with images of farmworkers or close up cherry shots, panoramic vistas of the Ethiopian plateau or sometimes the producer. And yet not one reference to price paid or commitment to ensuring producers get a living wage.

The word specialty is a scam. The ambiguous nature of "specialty" is an issue, we assume it means something and it doesn't. If you ask a person what is "speciality coffee" they would more often think a premium product with the farmer receiving a great price due to its outstanding qualities.

The secondary word used with specialty is Single-origin, every roaster buys single-origin coffee, all coffee is single-origin before its blended by the roaster. But specialty and single-origin seem to mean something. In many contexts the use of single origin and speciality demand a higher price for the roaster but not necessarily the producer.

I would like coffee to be honest, show the producer, the person who has done the majority of the work to get this product to you. The woman who has taken the initiative to push on growing such a difficult shrub, the man who has taken over his families plot to keep a proud tradition ongoing. We need to look at these times as a chance to looking beyond the best price or "c-market" and profit to an approach that respects the long coffee chain.

Businesses should make a profit, I have nothing against business doing well, but it shouldn't be at the detriment of others who produce the product. I have been in coffee for perhaps too long. I have seen the rise of specialty coffee first hand, the worship of the machinery used, the cafe design approach, brew methods, barista championships, and specialty coffee shows. It's a huge industry, and it has changed hugely except for the real celebration and reward of the producer.

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