While a tremendous amount of effort and attention is directed toward selecting the right bean, the specialty coffee industry recognizes that transportation, storage, roasting, packaging, brewing and preparation all affect the quality of the final product and as such, has developed or is in the process of developing standards for ensuring quality at each of these stages.
As more care goes into producing specialty coffees, sales have surged according to the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA).
The association reported that specialty coffees represent 37% of U.S. coffee cups and are considered the highest quality in the world. The retail value of the U.S. coffee market is estimated at $30-32 billion dollars, with specialty comprising approximately a 37% volume share but nearly 50% value share. Other figures include:
* 40% of 18-24 year olds said they drink coffee daily, up from 31% in 2010 and on par with 2009’s 40%, while 54% of 25-39 year olds said they drink coffee daily, up from 44% in 2010 and on par with 2009’s 53%.
* 58% of consumers polled aged 18 and over said they drank coffee yesterday, compared with 56% in 2010, 59% in 2009, and 60% in 2008.
* There are two primary types of coffee, Arabica and Robusta, and the vast majority of coffee used in the specialty industry is of the Arabica type.
The absence of defects is critical and in practice, according to SCAA protocols, a single coffee is cupped at least 15 times by professional cuppers trained to identify flaws, ensuring there is no bitterness, harshness, sourness, or other off-putting flavors or aromas. A skilled cupper should be able to detect these defects in the cup.
Much like wine, coffee flavor is affected by soil, altitude and other climatic factors and in Ethiopia alone there are reportedly over 10,000 varietals.
In recent years, there has been a huge surge in Arabica coffee demand from large, emerging markets including Brazil, India, and China. These countries have growing middle classes which been providing high demand for good coffee and they are competing with the United States to purchase these specialty coffee beans.
The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) is a non-profit trade organization and a recognized leader in coffee knowledge development. With over 9,000 members located in more than 40 countries, SCAA members represent every segment of the specialty coffee industry, including producers, roasters, importers/exporters, retailers, manufacturers, baristas and other industry professionals.