To be considered 'specialty', coffee must meet a number of criteria.

- Grown in regions with specific climates and altitudes.
- Farmed by expert growers in small (usually independent) plantations.
- Sustainable so farmers can continue to provide a high quality crop year after year and expect a fair price for it.
- Harvested at the peak of the coffee cherry’s ripeness.
- Sorted to remove insects, small stones and other defects.
- Washed or dried to remove the seed (coffee bean) from the fruit (coffee cherry).
- Traceable so customers know exactly where their coffee has come from – roasters often select coffee beans by travelling to meet the farmers in person.
- Roasted lightly using temperature and time to bring out all of the flavours in the bean.
- Closely monitored during the roasting process with scientific principles applied to ensure the highest standards of quality and flavour.
- Prepared by an experienced barista who uses coffee, water, time and pressure according to a set ratio or 'recipe' to extract the full flavour of the coffee.

And that’s it – simple really.

Check out our master classes if you want to find out more about making the perfect espresso, beautiful latte art or getting the most of your home brewing kit.

Blends and single origins

Coffee blends combine coffee beans from different regions, bringing their individual flavour characteristics together to create a desired overall flavour profile.

Single origin coffees use beans from just one region to really bring out the flavours particular to that coffee and part of the world.

Tasting notes

You might notice your specialty coffee tastes of red berries, chocolate, or aniseed or has these words written on the packaging. These are ‘tasting notes’, similar to those used in wine, and are used to describe the subtle flavours you can detect in your coffee. This is part of the third wave of coffee, which considers coffee as an artisanal foodstuff rather than a commodity.

Because specialty coffee beans are selected, processed and extracted to the highest possible standard, you can taste the full depth of flavour of the bean. And because they are lightly roasted, specialty coffees tend to be sweeter, smoother and more delicate than other coffees.

Tasting notes are observed and assigned to different specialty coffees by roasters in a process called ‘cupping.’ The roaster compares and contrasts different coffees and roasts against each other to identify their unique characteristics and flavours. This also helps with quality control so the roaster can make sure coffee roasted in different batches has a similar flavour profile.