Gourmet or specialty coffees are made from beans that have exceptional qualities that come from being grown in the best climate with good soil characteristics. They have a distinct and unique flavor that must be free of taints, faults or other odors. This one must be free from quakers (underdeveloped coffee beans), have no more than five defects in a 350 gram sample and show distinctive attributes, with regard to aroma, after taste and acidity.
The term “specialty coffee” was first used in 1974 and it was used to describe specialty coffee beans of outstanding flavor that were produced in special micro climates. With the surge of cafes, coffee houses and gourmet coffee retailers in the 1990s, it has become one of the fastest growing markets in the food service industry, which netted approximately $12.6 billion in the United States alone in 1997.
If you ask anyone who is involved in the process of producing gourmet or specialty coffees what brewing method is the key to producing a specialty or gourmet coffee, then you will likely be told that there is no one perfect brewing method, but rather a committed dedication from the artisans. The method of brewing, such as using an espresso or cappuccino coffee machines, is not nearly as important as the complete process. From planting and selective harvesting, to processing and preparation for export; everyone has a hand in the results.
There is even an organization called the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), which is a trade organization for the specialty industry of this wonderful drink. They want to set standards for growing, roasting and brewing of premium coffees. Members include retailers, producers, exporters, roasters and importers; as well as manufacturers of its equipment and related products. They have different expositions and seminars that they attend and constantly offer updates about what is happening in the world of specialty coffee.
There are several different organizations of this wonderful drink around the world that enter a sample of their finest one during the SCAA Roasters Guild, 3 Day Cupping Competition and earn the recognition of having the best specialty coffees in the world. Thirty judges thoroughly evaluate the taste and aroma of each sample entered into the contest, and then judge the entries on six attributes of taste, fragrance, aroma, flavor, aftertaste and body.