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A lot of people may not like what will be said here, but for those who want a deeper understanding, here is the truth.

Starbucks is loved by many people in the world.

It has been around since before the specialty coffee became so popular. Now that people have specialty coffee, they are wondering how Starbucks fits into that world.

Would you consider Starbucks to be a specialty coffee? How can you tell if coffee is a specialty coffee?

What is specialty coffee?

Specialty coffee is driven by globally high ethics, excellent quality and diversity, and produces a thriving coffee community throughout the world.

That is a pretty broad explanation for specialty coffee. If you want to go into more depth, there is more to dig into.

That explanation is based on the mindset of specialty coffee rather than the characteristics.

Here is a little more information that goes further in-depth.

  • Specialty coffee puts relationships first and foremost. This leads to ethical practices on and off the farm including treatment and wages among other practices.
  • Specialty coffee is driven by quality. This is for both the collecting process and for roasting. Roasters for specialty coffee uses knowledge and experience to roast the coffee in the best way that will highlight the flavors.
  • Specialty coffee is a global community that shares in ethical sourcing, the fight against lack of education, better pay globally for employees, and better taste and quality of the coffee.

If you want to go even deeper into what specialty coffee is, then here is a better definition.

Specialty coffee is made with coffee beans that have little to no defect. They have scored 80 to 100 percent on the scale that was made by the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

Here are four ways to identify specialty coffee.

There are four major tests that are used to determine if the coffee falls in the specialty coffee industry.

These tests are not the only way to determine the quality of the coffee.

They are the common method, though.

The coffee's origin test. Does the packaging have any information about the farm where the beans were harvested, the region where it was originated, or the processing?

Roasters who are proud of their products will often have information about where the coffee came from. They want their customers to know they are drinking high-quality coffee.

The roasting date test. Does the coffee packaging have a "roasted on" date? Does it have a "use by" date instead?

You have to be very careful when looking for this on the packaging. Do not get confused by the normality of seeing a "use by" date on an item. This date is misleading to the customers. Coffee is only at its peak within the first two weeks of roasting. You want to find the "roasted on" date.

The flavor description test. Does the packaging have any specific flavors described on it? Is the flavor description common or vague?

This is important to look for if you are new to brewing coffee. You wouldn't want to get a coffee that you didn't know what to expect when drinking the coffee. Roasters who use vague descriptions are known for having mediocre coffee with dull or bland flavors. Some of those roasters will use flavor oils to spray onto the beans to give them the dull flavors. The more descriptive a roaster is about the coffee beans, the higher the quality of the coffee.

The roast test. Are the beans extremely dark in color? Do they appear oily?

You have to keep an eye out for those over-roasters. They will roast all of the uniqueness and flavor out of the beans. If the beans look extremely dark, then they are probably going to taste bitter and dull.

Why do many people think that Starbucks isn't specialty coffee?

  • Starbucks doesn't label their bags with "roasted on" dates.
  • Starbucks doesn't label the packaging with origin details.
  • Starbucks doesn't have specific flavor notes.

Are you wondering if Starbucks is still considered to be specialty coffee?

Starbucks was around before there was the specialty coffee that we know now. It was Starbucks and a few other coffee companies that really created the coffee community in America.

It wasn't until the 1980s that brewers started changing things around, and brewing lighter coffees for people to enjoy. They brought exotic drinks like espresso, lattes, and other flavored coffee drinks.

They brought us a new cafe culture with expensive coffees and lots of flavors.

Why does Starbucks fail many tests?

Starbucks is not a small business. They have grown into an incredibly large chain that many people love and enjoy on a daily or weekly basis.

They had to use many farms to source out their coffee beans to meet demand. The main priority for the company is to have consistency in taste throughout the company.

This means that the same flavor that is in New York is in Florida. To accomplish this task, they had to decrease the quality of the beans to make the flavors the same throughout the company.

That is also why they never labeled any specific flavors. They did not want to scare any customers away so they went for a general flavor instead of having a specific single-origin flavor.

Starbucks has great qualities to the company and to the coffee community.

  • Starbucks has 99% of its coffee labeled "ethically sourced". This comes from the Coffee and Farmer Equity Practices. That means that they are fighting the battle against poverty and lack of education in the coffee communities that they source from.
  • Starbucks lightly follows some of the specialty coffee trends. They have pour-over machines, espresso machines, and cold-brew machines to provide the specialty coffee drinks that people love.
  • Starbucks participates in the specialty coffee industry. They have one of their scientists that speak at a variety of coffee events, their baristas compete in a variety of coffee competitions, and they even sponsor the SCAA trade show each year.

Starbucks is still considered a specialty coffee company. It may only be a small part of them that is considered to be a specialty.

The most important part is that they do help with ethical sourcing to bring more money to the coffee communities.

These communities are in serious need of assistance in any way that can help. Ethical sourcing is one of the best ways to help them.

Starbucks may not have quality coffee or great flavor, but at least they care about the employees of the farmers.


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