What is Specialty Coffee?

What is Specialty Coffee?


From the corners of Vietnam to the shores of New York City, coffee is one of the most widely spread and loved beverages. Whether you’re a fan of a dark, strong espresso shot or a milky latte with plenty of foam, you are part of a longstanding history of bean and brew. 


But if you’re wondering why some coffee comes with a higher price tag, or a richer taste, the answer is – it’s likely a specialty coffee, just like Kivu noir. 


Unlike most mass-produced store coffees (think instant, freeze dried, cafe chains), specialty coffees are, well, special. The official line: “special geographic microclimates produce beans with unique flavor profiles”, referred to as a specialty coffee by Erna Knutsen, of Knutsen Coffee Ltd., in a speech to the delegates of an international coffee conference in Montreuil, France, in 1978. 


What does that mean? 


It means that when coffee trees are grown in geographic microclimates they develop a unique flavour, that is specific to that coffee and can’t be replicated anywhere else in the world.  


In order to be considered a specialty coffee, there are a few boxes to tick.




What does it take for a coffee to have potential? It needs to be a great varietal grown at the right climate, altitude and soil type. Even a great varietal grown in the wrong altitude won’t have the potential it needs to go on to become a specialty coffee. 


Kivu noir coffee, a single estate Red Bourbon Arabica varietal, is cultivated on the volcanic shores of Lake Kivu in Rwanda at over 4,800 ft. above sea level. The trees enjoy rich soils, high altitudes, plentiful equatorial sunshine and rainfall. 


These unique conditions work hand-in-hand to create a truly unique, beautifully smooth and unrivalled single estate Arabica coffee.




Coffee beans need to be picked at the peak of their ripeness to preserve their potential. Our coffee is picked and hand-sorted by women from the local area. Experienced and meticulous in their work, they ensure that only the best, most ripe cherries are processed.


From tree to mill, Kivu noir is fiercely protective of the freshness of our coffee. So the next step in the process is the single, most important part of what makes us special.




Roasting requires a good level of skill an understanding of the potential hidden within the beans. But beyond that, in order to benefit from the full potential, coffee needs to be roasted as soon as possible.


Almost 80% of the world’s coffee lies in warehouses and store rooms for up to two years before it finally makes the journey from grower to roaster. During this time it slowly loses more and more of its potential. Kivu noir coffee is roasted and available to customers typically within one month from when the beans are harvested. That’s the worlds freshest coffee.

We are one of the few companies who roast in the country of origin. Our final roasted coffee is layered with hints of sweet orange and cocoa, a subtle cherry-lime finish, and a rounded complexity that makes for a wonderfully approachable, drinkable coffee. Around the world, coffee beans are typically passed from grower to buyer to roaster to consumer in a long and complicated chain.


We assure the highest quality and the purest possible specialty coffee by owning the entire coffee processing and supply chain. From the farm all the way to the customer buying the coffee. 


But in order for a specialty coffee to truly live up to its title it needs to be brewed right.And that’s where you come in.




From grinding the coffee beans to how you choose to brew your coffee – slow drip or French press – you are just as important in ensuring Kivu noir is enjoyed the way it was intended. 


We’ve ticked the first three boxes, are you ready to tick the fourth? Sign up for our newsletter where we will teach you how to brew the perfect cup of Kivu noir. 


SOURCE: https://scanews.coffee/2017/03/17/what-is-specialty-coffee/ By Ric Rhinehart 

Published by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) – June 2009

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