What is specialty coffee anyways?

What is specialty coffee anyways?

When we talk about specialty coffee, what are we actually talking about?

Specialty can refer to a grade of coffee that's been evaluated in its green (raw) and roasted state by coffee grading experts (known as Q Graders). The grading system they use looks at:

Green coffee: bean size, density, moisture, and for any defects (or lack thereof)
Roasted coffee: aroma, flavour, aftertaste, body, acidity, balance, sweetness, uniformity, and cleanness


Basically, any coffee that scores 80 or more (out of 100 total) is then considered specialty grade coffee.

This grading system is really important because it maintains the incredibly high quality of specialty coffee and gives us a clear definition of what is or isn't considered specialty. 

However, at Downriver we think it's also really important to think about specialty in a broader, cultural sense. And we're not alone in thinking about it this way! We see specialty coffee as more than just a high score. It's about care, fairness, and respect across the entire supply chain. This involves a more people, relationship, and planet-centred understanding of what specialty coffee is. 

Each step in the coffee journey from origin to cup involves so many people who work with care and respect, and in turn, deserve fair pay and work terms. This includes (but isn't limited to) farmers, producers, cooperatives, green coffee buyers, importers, exporters, roasters, baristas, and consumers too. 

At Downriver, it's important to us that our coffee is ethically sourced and fully traceable. We extend that care and respect out not just to the amazing coffee we get to roast and brew but also to the people who work so meticulously to harvest and transport it. And we really care about how we communicate that to our customers because they are part of that story and journey now too. 


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