Opinion

What is specialty coffee? (more precisely defined)

In seeking definition of 'what is specialty coffee?' I decided to come up with some rules for what does (and doesn't) make it into our global list of specialty cafes. It's all informed by what I call 'coffee-centricity'. You can be coffee-centric in a number of ways, and it seems obvious when you see it ('man, these guys are really into coffee!') but I thought I'd codify it somewhat. It is summarised in the following infographic.

Perhaps this could be best elucidated upon with some examples:

This isn't specialty coffee

This is specialty coffee

  • A multi-roaster cafe that imports coffee from all over the region, brewing them as espresso drinks only
  • A cafe that roasts its own coffee, serving an espresso blend only as espresso drinks
  • A simple cafe that uses coffee from one roaster, offering the espresso blend plus a couple of filter options as espresso drinks or filter coffee
  • A cafe that just serves one espresso blend as espresso drinks, brewed by the runner up in a regional barista competition
  • A cafe that has a Slayer on which they just brew the espresso blend from a great roaster (there are lots of cafes like this! They may brew great coffee, but they're not coffee-centric)
  • A cafe that only serves filter coffee of one kind of bean
  • A cafe which doesn't mention anything about the beans or brew methods (not enough information)

This is always going to be controversial, but I think this is a restrictive enough list to make the task of cataloguing cafes around the world manageable. What do you think?