Specialty coffee and fine wine: it’s a comparison we see often. Like a Château Latour or Barth Riesling, a fresh cup of artisan coffee has a certain cachet. It even has its own movement: the Third Wave.
The Third Wave treats coffee as an artisanal beverage instead of a cheap caffeine buzz. All stages, from bean origin to the roasting and brewing processes, are approached with the same skill and reverence that the producers of fine wine and craft beer show with their products. As a result, specialty coffee connoisseurs claim that a cup of Tanzanian peaberry or Ethiopian Yergacheffe is as delectable as the best Chateaux Margaux or Mission Hill.
Unique and region-specific flavors
Specialty coffee blends and single-origin beans get a lot of their flavor from their native soil, with the most desirable crops coming from the rich soil of volcanic regions. Like globetrotting wine judges, coffee aficionados can identify beans by region and even altitude.
Only the best beans
Unlike mass-produced grocery store coffees, specialty coffee beans are selectively picked. This process takes more time but yields a better cup. Not all beans ripen at the same pace and strip-picking can mix raw beans in with those that are market-ready. Only the freshest crops are harvested and processed in a way that highlights their unique flavor.
Blended for excellence
A lot of roasters blend less expensive Robusta beans with the superior-quality Arabica to lower costs and maximize profits. Genuine artisan craftsmen use 100% Arabica beans in their single-origin and blended coffees. This is to preserve the finer aroma, richer taste, and smooth body that discerning coffee drinkers love.
Tested before roasting
Like fine wines, specialty coffees are tested before production begins. After a small batch is roasted, the ‘cupper’ (as tasters are called) will brew a cup, smell its aroma, and finally taste it. If the quality is worthy of being called a specialty brew, the cupper will give the go-ahead to roast the best of the beans.
The best artisan coffees are shipped to boutique roasters and coffee shops that grind and use the beans within four weeks maximum. Many of these places grind it fresh to order and prepare each cup using cafetières, ceramic cones, and other artisan methods. The result is a handcrafted cup that retains the natural aroma and flavor of a good specialty coffee. It’s a level of dedication that the best wine boutiques would envy.
In conclusion, specialty coffee is not a commodity. It is a sensory experience, and in that respect, its similarity to fine wine could not be stronger… even if you add milk.