Updated: Apr 12
The definition of Specialty Coffee and Fine Robusta seems to be a familiar term for coffee enthusiasts.
This is not a definition of a single type of coffee, but a term that encompasses the value of an entire coffee supply chain.
Specialty Coffee can consistently exist through the dedication of the people who have made it their life's work to continually make quality their highest priority. This is not the work of only one person in the lifecycle of a coffee bean; specialty can only occur when all of those involved in the coffee value chain work in harmony and maintain a keen focus on standards and excellence from start to finish. This is no easy accomplishment, and yet because of these dedicated professionals, there are numerous specialty coffees available right now, across the globe, and likely right around the corner from you.
according to Specialty Coffee Association (SCA)
The term Specialty Coffee was coined by industry pioneer Erna Knutsen in 1974.
Erna Knutsen (1921 - 2018). Source: brewizm.com
Throughout her career, Knutsen has been a pioneer in the specialty coffee industry. She was one of the first to recognize the potential of high-quality and distinctive coffees from specific regions, and she has dedicated much of her career to promoting these coffees.
Knutsen is best known for coining the term "specialty coffee" in the 1970s. At that time, coffee was seen as a commodity product, with little differentiation in quality between coffee beans from different regions. Knutsen recognized that some coffees had unique and desirable flavors, and she worked tirelessly to create a market for these coffees.
SCA, CQI and Specialty Coffee
Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) and Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) are two organizations specialized in promoting and maintaining standards for high-quality coffee:
Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) is a nonprofit organization established in 1982. It is an international organization representing thousands of coffee experts, including farmers, roasters, baristas, and coffee shop owners. SCA provides education and training programs, research, and events to help coffee professionals enhance their skills and knowledge. They also have a set of standards for specialty coffee, including everything from cultivation and processing to brewing and serving. SCA has a rigorous certification program for coffee experts, including classes and exams in fields such as sensory, brewing, and roasting.
Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) is also a nonprofit organization established in 1996. The institute's mission is to improve coffee quality worldwide through training, research, and certification programs. CQI works with coffee farmers, roasters, and other experts to promote sustainable and responsible coffee production practices. They also have a Coffee Quality Certification program, designed to help coffee producers improve the quality of their crops and get better coffee prices. CQI also has a Coffee Corps program, sending volunteers to coffee-producing countries to help farmers improve their cultivation and processing methods.
Overall, both SCA and CQI focus on promoting high-quality coffee and supporting coffee experts around the world.
However, when it comes to Specialty Coffee, the standards and evaluation forms are dedicated to the Arabica coffee variety. It wasn't until 2010 that CQI established the Q Robusta Program to establish a common language for high-quality Robusta, called Fine Robusta.
The standards and procedures for Fine Robusta address how Robusta is typically processed and what measures can be taken at different points in the supply chain to improve its quality, from the farm to the coffee cup.
Q Fine Robusta Standards and Protocols. Source: CQI
Currently, to put it briefly:
Specialty Coffee in general, or Fine Robusta in particular, is defined as coffee that scores 80 or above on a 100-point scale according to standard scoring sheets. It is evaluated and certified by a group of coffee tasters called Q Graders - under the Coffee Quality Institute.
The journey of Specialty Coffee
As mentioned, Specialty Coffee is a definition that encompasses the value of the entire supply chain. That is, every step involved in creating the cup of coffee you hold in your hand is very important. The specialty coffee industry values sustainability, transparency, and fairness in the supply chain, and the journey to create Specialty Coffee begins with:
Farmers: the person who nurtures, cultivates, and harvests coffee. Coffee trees are grown on coffee farms in many different regions around the world, which becomes unique characteristics and flavors. Coffee cherries are harvested from coffee trees when they are ripe. This is usually done by hand, and the coffee cherries are graded according to their quality.
Producers: the person who directs and develops the flavor of coffee through various processing methods. The coffee cherries, after being harvested and gathered at the processing station, are processed to remove the outer layers. They are then subjected to different drying and fermentation methods, resulting in green coffee beans with various qualities. The choice of processing method depends on the facility, environmental conditions, coffee quality, market demand, and other factors. The coffee is then sorted by quality and characteristics such as size, shape, and color.
Roasters: the person who unlocks the flavors of green coffee beans. Depending on the purpose and characteristics of the coffee, the roaster will have different roasting profiles. At the same time, the roaster also controls and stabilizes the quality of the roasting batches before serving them to customers.
Baristas: the person who conveys the value of coffee beans to customers through various brewing methods, such as Phin filter, espresso machine, manual brewing, etc. They can also be representatives, sharing stories from farms and processing stations, further strengthening the connection with customers.
Customers: the person who receives, enjoys, and maintains the integrity of the achievements in a value chain from farm to cup of coffee.
iO Coffee and Fine Robusta
Because the story doesn't just stop at how to make a good cup of coffee, but that cup of coffee must fully embody the national spirit of Vietnam.
iO Coffee has laid its first bricks and tirelessly strives every day with the hope of bringing the Fine Robusta of Vietnam to coffee lovers around the world. At the same time, achieving the potential, sustainable development of the value of Vietnamese Fine Robusta.
iO Coffee looks forward to the companionship of all partners and the coffee-loving community on this wonderful journey.