What is Speciality Coffee?

What is this speciality coffee you speak of?

When browsing for your perfect coffee, have you ever asked yourself ‘what is speciality coffee’? It’s not a silly question, far from it in fact. There is a difference between commercial or commodity coffee and speciality coffee. We want to help you understand what makes speciality coffee special and so damn tasty.


espresso pouring into two cups


Let’s start at the beginning

Coffee as we know it grows on a coffee plant, similar to how berries grow. The coffee beans usually grow together in pairs, like a peanut has two halves. These coffee seeds, or beans as we know them, are protected by a layer of ‘fruit’ which changes colour as the coffee cherry ripens. The exception to them growing in pairs is a peaberry coffee bean, which is just the one seed per coffee cherry.


Coffee cherries being picked


Speciality coffee cherries are often hand-picked when ripened. The farm workers make sure to pick only the ripest of cherries. If the cherries are overripe or under-ripe, they are either left for next time or discarded. These under and overripe cherries will contain beans that are not at their best, and that is why they are not picked.

If cherries are chosen that are not at their best, these are separated from the lot before they are processed; either by hand or by flotation tank. With a lower graded coffee, like commercial or commodity coffee, the coffee cherries are often picked and processed at the same time, regardless if they are fully ripe or not.


After picking, the seeds need to be extracted from the cherry. This is achieved in one of three main ways.

The first way is known as naturally processing coffee. For this, the coffee cherries are laid out under the sun to dry. Once dry, the dry flesh has to be removed. Naturally processed coffees can have exciting flavours, such as fruity or floral to name a few.


coffee drying patios


The second way is the washed method. During the washed process, the coffee cherries are de-pulped to strip off the outer layer of fleshy fruit, before they are placed into fermentation tanks. While in the fermentation tank, the enzymes within the coffee break away the remaining flesh. Following this, the coffee is then rewashed and laid out to dry, similar to its naturally processed counterpart.

Lastly, is the honey, or pulped natural method. The name given to this method is different from country to country. This is a mix of the two ways above. For this, the coffee is de-pulped as described in the washed method above. Following this, the striped fruit is laid out to dry, where it dries quickly, increasing sweetness and body.


speciality coffee bean sorting


Once the cherries are picked and processed, they are dried to between 9 and 12% moisture content. Each of these three coffee processing methods will make a difference to the coffees final taste.

Resting the coffee

No matter how the coffee has been processed, it will then rest; traditionally for 30 – 60 days. This helps to improve how the beans will age before they are shipped. After resting, the green beans are mechanically hulled, removing them of their protective layer of parchment.

Lastly, they are examined and graded, as we will explain below.

Then, and only then is this speciality coffee ready to be exported all over the world.


a man in brazil carrying a coffee sack

Flavour profiles

The altitude that the coffee cherries are grown, along with the type of soil and the amount of shade, not to mention the weather and climate, will all add to the coffees final flavour or taste.

Speciality coffees range in notes from citrus to cherries and berries, chocolate and nuts, and everything you will find in between. This opens up a whole world of possibilities to be explored!


huye mountain rwanda


Sourcing Speciality Coffee

Here at Two Chimps, we work with an importer to source an array of quality speciality coffee beans for us. They negotiate directly with the coffee farmers where possible and seek the best quality beans for a premium price. In their words “We work to build a lasting relationship with the producers and farmers – treating them like long-term business partners”.


coffee farmers


Buying speciality coffee means that we don’t necessarily need the help of an ethical third party to aid in our ethical responsibilities. Organisations like Rainforest Alliance or Fairtrade  are amazing; their end goal is to ensure that the farmer receives a fair price for their crop in the commodity grade coffee world.

However, in the world of speciality coffee, farmers will always be paid a higher price for their crop. Speciality coffee is purchased for between 30-150% more than the commodity grade price. This is because the crop is so good and worth such a high price.

With a better price paid, skills, crops and facilities have the opportunity to be improved year on year. This could lead to a better harvest, in turn creating even tastier coffee.


coffee farmer


Smaller Farms and Single Estates

All our coffees are sourced from small farms and single estates from around the world. This means that when all of the coffee from the harvest has been drunk, it ceases to exist. Generally, our coffees change every eight to twelve months, but this depends on the farm and the size of the harvest.

coffee farming lady from rwanda


Rest assured, when it’s time to change a coffee, we will always replace it with one that has similar flavours and tasting notes. We keep the colours of our labels the same, but we update the origin and give it a fun new name.

For instance, if you liked the green label last time, you will more than likely like the new green label this time. However, if it’s not for you, don’t worry. Give us a call at Two Chimps HQ, and we’ll recommend another and swap it for you.


We choose our coffees on their taste, balanced with how we wish to roast them.

For instance, if we are looking for a coffee to roast a little darker for espresso, we will choose a coffee that has a fuller body with a little less natural acidity and tasting notes of maybe chocolate, caramel, toffee, nuts and the likes.

A light, fruity coffee could lose a significant proportion of its individual and delicate flavours if we were to choose to roast this coffee too dark. These types of coffees are instead roasted lighter and more delicately to suit a pour over such as a V60 or Chemex, or even for a cafetiere.


coffee falling from hands


So, speciality coffee is grown and picked differently; there must be more to it?

Yes, you’re right; As mentioned, speciality coffee needs to be graded. Speciality coffee is graded by certified coffee tasters known as ‘Q graders’ and must score 80 points or more on a scale that tops out at 100.

It is scored firstly on its defects. It can have zero primary defects such as black or sour beans; and less than 5 secondary defects, like insect damage or chipping per 100 beans.


coffee sorting in rwanda


These coffee tasters will also grade the coffee using a skill known as coffee cupping. Q graders blind taste and make notes about the coffee. The more interesting the coffee, usually the higher the score.

You can read about cupping coffee on our Brew Guides for Making Coffee. It is not all about its taste; it’s graded on flavour, aftertaste, intensity, smell, mouthfeel and colour.


Pouring water onto coffee in a cupping bowl

Why pay more for coffee?

Along with your conundrum of ‘what is speciality coffee,’ you may think ‘why should I pay more for coffee – what’s in it for me?’

Speciality coffee has the opportunity to be sweeter, smoother and more delicate than a lower grade of coffee. Its natural flavours have been preserved through the gentle care throughout its growing and roasting process.

Because the quality of the coffee is better, it does not need to be roasted as dark to hide impurities. The roaster can keep the natural flavours within the coffee and highlight these in the roasting process, rather than having to hide behind a darker roast style.



For the greater good

‘Pay more and give more back’ is what we promote. We know that the extra pennies go to the farmer, village and families thereof. It’s for the greater good, and that gives us a spring in our step. Feel happy in the knowledge that it’s going somewhere that matters. On top of that, you get a fantastic tasting cup of coffee – happy days.


Ladies standing on and with green specialty coffee


Storing Speciality Coffee and Keeping It Fresh

When your speciality coffee arrives on your doormat, there are a few things that you can do to help keep your coffee as fresh as the day it was roasted. The way you store it, for instance, can make a huge difference.

Firstly, store your coffee out of direct sunlight. The sun can change the taste and look of your beans. We wouldn’t recommend storing your coffee in the fridge either as the constant change from the fridge to room temperature can create moisture on your coffee,  which will deteriorate the flavours and freshness quicker.


coffee bag in the fridge with a warning smbol


Our Two Chimps Coffee bags have a one-way valve installed for freshness. The valve allows the essential coffee gasses to escape without letting any oxygen in – happy days.

Although oxygen is good for most things, the deterioration of coffee is not one of them. Oxygen takes the freshness, taste and smells away from the coffee. To avoid your coffee being exposed to too much oxygen, simply make sure the bag or tin is always shut tightly when you are not using it. Squeeze the air out of possible too.


two chimps coffee and tin magnet set


Freshly Roasted Coffee

Here at Two Chimps Coffee, We freshly roast our coffees multiple times each week. This way, you can be sure of drinking the freshest coffee when your coffee delivery arrives with you.

Fresh tastes best so, ordering your coffee in little amounts more frequently is the way to go. Although an overload of coffee sounds pretty awesome to us, rather than ordering coffee to last you months, we recommend you order in smaller quantities to keep that all-important freshness.


coffee in a cooling bin


To help you on your way to fresh speciality coffee greatness, check out our coffee subscriptions.

With FREE first class delivery on everything, you can have coffee as, and when you want it. You can pause and re-activate your coffee subscriptions at anytime, and amend and update your address and payment details too.

Check out our online shop to pick your speciality coffee.




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