What is 'Speciality Coffee'?
The term ‘speciality coffee’* can be credited only to the highest quality coffee that conforms with rigorous Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) and Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) standards. The coffee must score 80+ points to be considered ‘speciality grade’.
The scoring system is complex: the criteria used to evaluate each coffee are split into different categories, which are applied throughout the lifecycle of a coffee bean – from origin to cup. Scoring and evaluation is carried out by highly trained, licensed Q Graders.
Scores are awarded for criteria such as fragrance and aroma, acidity, aftertaste, body, balance, sweetness, uniformity and cleanness of the cup – to name but a few. Heavy deductions are made for even the smallest of defects. In fact, coffee cannot be considered speciality grade at all if a 350g sample contains just a single bean with a primary defect, or more than five category 2 defects, such as broken or chipped beans – even though these are unlikely to have an impact on flavour.
THE LIFECYCLE OF OUR COFFEE
Speciality coffee can be produced only if every link in the coffee supply chain works together in perfect harmony, with a single-minded focus on standards and excellence. Speciality coffee means excellent coffee, but the term is also indicative of a community of like-minded people who share the same values and who fearlessly strive for betterment.
PEOPLE WHO MAKE IT POSSIBLE
An outstanding coffee starts with the grower.
Here at Playtime, we only work with expert growers in select high-altitude regions and microclimates who prioritise quality over quantity, and who have spent years – even generations – perfecting their approach to coffee farming.
Plants are carefully nursed through the seasons to produce the finest quality coffee cherries. Only the ripest cherries are handpicked and only the best of those will pass to us.
The growers we work with are paid substantially above the market price for the outstanding coffee they produce. This ensures continued investment in sustainability, biodiversity and local communities for generations to come.
Green coffee is then transferred to our Roastery.
Our head roaster and his team have extensive expertise, qualifications and distinguished palates for assessing the green coffee for purchase. The coffee is tasted systematically (in a process known as ‘cupping’) to evaluate its qualities and potential. Once selected, we formulate inspiring roast profiles to highlight its natural flavours and aromatic compounds.
Cutting-edge Giesen technology allows the head roaster to control every aspect of the entire roasting process. The science of heat transfer and thermodynamics is applied in combination with the latest Cropster roasting software to ensure a perfect batch every time.
A speciality coffee bean that has been grown, picked and roasted to perfection needs to be served with the same aptitude and expertise.
Our highly skilled baristas work together with the roasting team to perfect optimal brewing recipes, ensuring our coffee always fulfils its promise – whether it’s served in a coffee bar or at home.
Speciality-level baristas are consummate coffee professionals who have undertaken countless hours of theoretical and practical training to obtain recognised qualifications. They have a wealth of knowledge about the coffee provenance, flavour profiles and brewing processes, which they are always eager to share.
Hopefully it won’t be a surprise to know how important you are as a consumer to the coffee lifecycle.
Each cup of speciality coffee contains a whole history of expertise, dedication and commitment. As a speciality coffee consumer, you are making a conscious choice to seek out this quality and, in doing so, allow the story to unfold. Your curiosity, appreciation and engagement have a positive impact that works its way back along the chain, long after the final sip has been enjoyed.