You know those folks you see in coffee shops - casually sipping a steaming brew while intently reading or writing or laughing with a group of friends?
Well, that was never me. I was never comfortable with the whole coffee shop atmosphere because I didn't know the lingo and felt like I just didn't fit in.
Fortunately, I was able to gain an understanding of coffee industry terms and culture and now feel completely comfortable with it.
If you are in the state I used to be in, don't worry! You're not alone and you can learn your way around coffee shops just like I did. Here are some basic definitions of common terms to help you understand what to order, where it comes from and other organizations and issues associated with the coffee world:
The Coffee Shop Culture
Espresso - This is a very strong, concentrated form of coffee, referred to as a "shot" that is produced using very fine coffee grounds and forcing hot water through them at a certain pressure. The resulting beverage is known as Espresso, and the term also refers to the brewing process.
Filter Coffee - Black coffee that is produced using a filter that is made of either paper, cloth or metal. It usually refers to coffee such as pour over or french press, but not espresso or drip, although it may include drip.
Drip Coffee - Coffee that is made using a common drip coffee maker.
Coffee Menu - In a specialty coffee shop, the menu usually contains information about brewing processes, country origin of coffee, etc.
Cafe - This is a place where coffee often shares the spotlight with food items, desserts, etc. A casual dining environment where people go to relax, eat and drink.
Coffee Shop - A more coffee-centered establishment that also serves small desserts or pastries. It is more known for the coffee, however, such as Starbucks.
Espresso Bar - The smallest of coffee establishments, focusing on coffee and espresso, possibly with a few small food/dessert items. Often, purchases are to-go, but there may be a few seats for customers to sit and enjoy items there.
Coffee Organizations and Competitions
Latte Art Throw Downs - Competitions where baristas are judged for the skill of their latte art. Awards are based on contrast, complexity and symmetry, but may have other criteria as well.
World Barista Competition - Champion baristas from all over the world compete in the world's largest coffee competition where they are judged on actions and spoken words in 15 minute intervals.
Specialty Coffee Association - An international organization that provides research, development, training and certifications and organizes the world's coffee competitions. It is comprised of various national organizations from around the world.
International Coffee Organization - Working in all countries that produce coffee, this fifty year old organization helps to provide economic support to regions in need, sustainability training and development of the coffee industry all over the world.
Cup of Excellence - An organization that focuses primarily on coffee farmers and producers by developing sales platforms, identifying leaders, and encouraging quality farming.
C-Market - Abbreviation for coffee market, the global price of commodity coffee. This price is determined by supply and demand and specialty coffee buyers do not normally buy according to this price.
About the Beans
Bean Origin - Where the bean was grown. The specificity of the location can vary widely from a vague country location to very specific, such as a certain lot on a certain farm.
Freshly Roasted - Beans that are roasted at peak flavor and freshness, between 1 - 14 days.
Processing Method - The way in which the skin and mucilage are removed from the beans within. This also refers to the fermentation process and drying method, all of which has an impact on the flavor.
Specialty Coffee - A specialty grade coffee, with little or no defects in the beans. It is often produced by those with high standards for quality and diversity, as well as earth conscious efforts and an international community.
Premium/Gourmet Coffee - A lower grade of coffee than specialty, but still of higher quality. It is not a regulated term, however, so actual quality may vary greatly.
Commodity Coffee - Coffee that is on the lower end of the quality scale, often delegated to instant coffee or lower-grade blends.
Tasting Notes - The categories in which coffee is judged, including, but not limited to, sweetness, bitterness, acidity, aroma, and overall flavor.
Economic Sustainability - It is said that coffee growing has become less financially profitable over the last half century and some farmers may be moving to more profitable crops. This is further complicated by new certifications such as UTZ and Fair Trade.
Environmental Sustainability - Many farms are not equipped enough to help prevent environmental damage in their community resulting from coffee crops. Also complicated by organizations and certifications such as the Rainforest Alliance and Bird Friendly Coffee.
Climate Change - The issue that pertains to unusually rapid warming of the climate that may cause unsuitable conditions for coffee growing. There is a projected decline of 80% in usable land by the year 2050.
Coffee Plant Genetic Diversity - The issue that warns against a lack of diversity in coffee plants that enables them to sustain changes in climate or fight against disease, risking major crop devastation.
Gender Inequality - Worldwide, women make up approximately 80% of the workforce in the coffee industry, yet are paid up to 30% less than male workers. This can lead to lack of provision and dignity within families in those regions.
While these terms are not exhaustive, they should give you a good understanding of the coffee industry and the variety that is available within the industry. If you wish to know more regarding a certain subject, there is much more information out there to increase your knowledge.
Of course, the best way to learn about coffee is to dive right in to your next cup o' joe.
Try new flavors from new places and you'll soon discover a new appreciation for the diversity and culture that can be found in a single cup!