Responsible Coffee: Speciality Vs Commodity

In this instalment of our Responsible Coffee series we delve into the differences between ‘speciality,’ and ‘commodity’ coffee.

Not all coffee is created equally. For one thing, different brewing and extracting methods can give you very different expressions of a coffee. However, when we look beyond the differences between things like the French press, pods and V60 filters, we begin to really understand the differences in coffee. 

What exactly is ‘speciality’ coffee?

The term speciality coffee is used for any coffee that scores 80 or above by a Speciality Coffee Association-certified coffee taster. These tests are incredibly thorough and each coffee is marked on things like acidity, body and flavour. But a coffee doesn’t just hit the speciality bar that easily. There can only be a maximum of five defects per 350g - considering the journey a bag of coffee goes through before it’s made into a drink, that’s a feat that takes an incredible amount of care. However, the term speciality coffee actually means more than simply the experts score.  

As well as being among the highest graded coffee in the world, speciality coffee refers to the whole farming and supply chain. Coffee of this calibre is usually grown at a higher altitude and often requires more care and attention throughout the farming, picking and processing – and this naturally has a knock-on effect to the price. Yes, speciality coffee isn’t cheap, no matter how far down the supply chain you go.

So what’s ‘commodity’ coffee then? 

On the other side of the coin we have common commodity coffee. This is the kind of coffee that is grown almost exclusively for high yields. With millions of cups of coffee drunk all over the UK every day, the beans have become a commodity that are traded on the stock market. As with all commodities, the price fluctuates due to a number of reasons including predicted harvests, weather and even speculative trends. What this means for the farmers, is that the price for their coffee becomes dependent on these variables. Commodity coffee can be incredibly unpredictable and the supply chain is riddled with exploitation. Farmers are often paid very poorly for their crop, and the coffee they produce is all about volume, not flavour. 

Why we’re dedicated to speciality coffee…

At Blue Goose we only buy speciality coffee because it delivers the very best flavour profiles and because of our ethical approach to business, where we pay our farmers a premium for their beans well above Fairtrade pricing. For us it’s never been about slugging back a mug of black liquid with a generic coffee flavour. No, the morning coffee ritual is about exploring and celebrating the delicate flavours and nuances of different coffees, their origins and the farming practices used where shade grown coffee and rich biodiversity improves your daily mug of coffee in so many ways. We also believe in a greener, kinder and fairer way to enjoy coffee every single day, which is why we invest in a supply chain that ensures the highest quality, best tasting coffee and the brightest future for the people who grow it.