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COFFEE TALK: What makes specialty coffee so special?

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I have always had a passion for coffee. While I didn’t drink it regularly until college, I have had a deep love for its aroma and taste since I was 3 years old. You’re probably asking, “Who would let a 3-year-old consume coffee?”

In large part, my grandmother and mother are to blame. As I was learning to talk, my grandmother loved hearing me mispronounce big words. She would have me attempt words like “refrigerator” and “prestidigitator.” If I said the words, I would be rewarded with a spoonful of coffee.

And so the seed was planted, waiting for the right time to sprout into the full-grown passion I have today.

I still remember the first time I roasted Tanzanian Peaberry and tasted its characteristic berry notes. I never had a cup of coffee surprise me in the manner that roast did. The sides of my tongue were zinged by the bright acidity. I tasted the citrus notes and the touch of berries that came through each swallow. For me, it wasn’t just roasting beans for a cup of coffee – it was reconnecting with a lost art.

From the 1700s to the early part of the 1900s, most people tossed green coffee beans in a pan on their stovetops and roasted to taste. With the development of large-scale roasters and mass production lines, this piece of coffee history was lost. The convenience of being able to pick up large cans of roasted coffee at the local store soon made roasting your own coffee a chore. The population began to believe that coffee was supposed to be bitter and dark roasted or sour and lightly roasted. They also developed the belief that the best channel to obtain their coffee was from the store. Unfortunately, the unique ability of roasting one’s own coffee became akin to rocket science.

Simply put, there’s nothing better than fresh roasted, specialty coffee, but not all coffees qualify as specialty. There are several elements a cup of coffee must have in order to be considered “specialty.”

Consideration of the coffee farm’s soil quality, weather conditions, cherry quality at harvest time, fermentation, hulling process, as well as storage conditions, all play a major role in the qualification.

Then comes the art of roasting the green coffee. As with any art, there’s an endless search for improvement, creativity, enlightenment and satisfaction. Add to that the storage, grinding, and brewing, each of which impacts the quality of the final product.

While roasting specialty coffee isn’t exactly rocket science, it does require the perfect combination of art, science and passion to do it well.

Each month, I hope to introduce you to another fascinating aspect of the beautifully complex world of coffee. I would also love to hear from you and learn what question you may have about coffee. You can send your questions to Jason@JustLoveCoffee.com. You never know, I might just answer your question in a future article.
Tagged under  Dining, Food, Jason Smith, Just Love Coffee, Voices

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