The Third Wave of Coffee in India lead by Specialty Coffee

The Third Wave of Coffee in India lead by Specialty Coffee

So that will be all for our introduction and let's dive into our topic of discussion for today, which is : 

Specialty coffee, deep dive. 

So Let us begin by answering the most common WH questions first.

  1. What is specialty coffee?
  2. What are the other types or kinds of coffee?
  3. What differentiates speciality from others?
  4. Different factors involved in specialty coffee?
  5. Where to buy and how to brew specialty coffee?

We shall begin with the different types of broad coffee categories, as that will answer most of the questions. 

So there are mainly 3 types:

  1. Instant 
  2. Commodity 
  3. Specialty

From person to person and region to region these category names can differ as well.

To understand these, let us first backtrack a little bit and understand the journey from cherry to bean and bean to cup. 

Well, to understand the coffee shrub let us discuss a little biology. 

The two main commercial species as we all know are Arabica and Canephora, or more commonly known as Robusta. 

Arabica is the most highly recognised because of its higher quality traits and robusta is of the lower quality as it grows more easily in adverse conditions and altitude.

Basically every year during harvest, the bloom takes place which is a white fragrant flower followed by berries that are green when immature, yellow in between and eventually red when fully ripened before turning black. 

Coffee varietals are the hybrids or natural mutations of these two species and it’s believed that the two original varietals of Arabica are Typica and Bourbon. 

So basically, coffee plants or as we call them varietals are plenty. But that's a discussion for another day and another topic and another day. 

So, coffee grows inside this berry or commonly known as a cherry. This cherry ripens once a year and yields coffee beans for us all. 

Except for the recent unprecedented phenomenon that occurred at Kollibyle Estate run by Mr. Vivek. More of that can be found on their instagram handle. You may check out the same.

Anyways, so the planters then pick these cherries through workers on site or machines. 

Post picking they then undergo coffee processing. Coffee processing involves common practices like natural sun dried, pulped and washed coffee and honey sun dried. 

Again, a topic for another day, but also a very important, crucial and underestimated topic in the field of indian specialty coffee. At we look forward to pushing the boundaries through radical processing methods that lead to complex flavour profiles like never before. 

Anyways more about that in the later episodes. A topic that I personally look forward to sharing with you all listeners. 

Eventually coffee goes to a mill where it again undergoes several stages of sorting, grading and polishing to eventually become a green bean ready to roast.

So this was basically a quick recap of the journey from cherry to bean.

Now bean to cup. 

So these green beans are then entrusted upon roasters to use their imagination and skill to perfect the roast. A perfect roast means the right balance of flavours, acidity, body and finish that develops a delicious cup of coffee. 

Roasts can be light to light medium to all the way upto dark roasts. Basically it's the degree at which you roast your coffee to achieve the desired outcome which is the flavour.

But there is much more to it. 

The rosating, kinds of roasts, DTR, cupping, the flavour wheel and there is so much more to discuss at length, but we shall in the upcoming episode of season 1.  

Anyways, back to the categories.

So now that we know the 2 journeys let's talk about our 1st category.

Instant Coffee. 

A coffee we are all familiar with. A coffee we have grown up drinking and probably still enjoy on occasions. 

On a side note, I happen to stumble upon a recent commercial on instant coffee where a wife serves instant coffee to her husband instead of tea because he has to do some heavy lifting.
I mean, common, that was just absurd. 

Anyways, Instant coffee till date, is the vast majority of all coffee consumed in the world. It is often treated as a commodity traded on international markets. 

So in this scenario the farmer gets paid the same for their coffee regardless of the quality of the coffee or the way in which it was processed and produced. 

The price is set on the world market without regard to coffee quality and baseline quality standards.

Usually, farmers sell to middlemen, who sell to exporters, who then sell to brokers and traders. In this long supply chain traceability is lost and the farmer receives a very small share of the final price. 

But on some occasions, as a part of fair trade some buyers invest more money in developing the community where coffee grows to help farmers sustain. 

Because of acts and policies like these, maybe things are about to change and will continue to in the future..

Oh and by the way, there is something known as specialty instant coffee ojt there as well. But a discussion we will have another day.

Commodity Coffee.

Falls under the commodity category again, because such coffee is also often traded on international stock exchanges. They are usually purchased and roasted by national brands or bulk suppliers of coffee and supplied in large quantities. The prices of these coffee’s constantly go up and down. For eg. The recent brazil frost is constantly pushing prices for coffee up each day. You can google more about the same to get a better understanding or you might already know as we recently posted a story about the same. 

On the cupping table, these coffees are usually scored below 75 points, but in general any coffee scoring under 80 are commercial grade. 

Most of the cafes in your local cities today serve commercial coffee in the form of the latte’s and cappuccinos that we enjoy. 

They are usually dark roasted and often taste bitter than specialty coffee, but balanced by the sweetness of milk and sometimes sugar as well. 

The other coffee that can be found in this category will be the fine grounded south indian filter coffee that often is a combination of arabic or robusta mixed with chicory. 

On some days, a cappuccino at a local cafe is perfect to hangout with friends over coffee and a hot cup of south indian filter coffee is a perfect morning cup of coffee for us many indians. 

Specialty Coffee

Coffee is coffee, right? Then why is there something called specialty coffee? 

Actually there are many factors that define the same and also the 

Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) has laid out different definitions for the same. 

In simple terms, it can be defined as very excellent quality coffee grown using sustainable methods, processed carefully, freshly roasted which helps it obtain a rating or quality score between 80 to 100. This quality score is determined by Q Grader (Professional tasters), distinguished by its aroma, flavor & aftertaste, sweetness, Acidity, Body and lack of imperfections.

Speciality coffee is also referred to as high-quality green coffee beans, as only the best and most ripened coffees actually make the final cut. 

On the contrary, 

The one with defects or the unripe ones, often called the floaters and are used for instant coffee or any other purpose chosen by the planter.

Other important factors when it comes to specialty coffe include: Harvesting, Processing and Roasting. 

Harvesting : Specialty Coffee is also harvested by Hand Picking. To get the maximum taste, the coffee cherries are hand picked, only if they are 95%-100% Ripe, which means red in color.


Coffee processing: 

Apart from the usual wet, dry and semi-dry methods often referred to as washed, naturals and honey processed coffee, the specialty coffee processing approach is quite unique. 

Extra ordinary methods like anaerobic naturals, fruit processing, carbonic maceration and more add to the long list of specialty coffee methods that help push the boundaries and the cupping score of coffees even beyond 90. 

One such processing idea, called the dark room processing, just made its way to specialty. We at can't wait to process coffees using such unique methods and bring out unique flavours unknown to us all. 

Roasting : The 3rd and equally crucial part of a specialty coffee journey is roasting. 

A roaster's job is to analyse, use their skills, use their understanding and roast coffees to its full flavor potential so that specialty coffee can be eventually called a specialty coffee.

Roasters also use their wit to create blends that are unique to them and elevate the whole experience of specialty coffee. 

More aspects that make specialty coffee unique include : Traceability & Direct Trade. 

Transparency of the entire crop to cup connects a chain of things together. Traceability will ensure where your coffee exactly came from, the origin, the farm, its altitude, the varietal, the roast profile and roast date. This creates full traceability from bean to cup for all specialty coffee consumers. 

Of course we will cover this topic too at length in coming episodes where we discuss what is a varietal, how altitude affects the taste in your cup and so on..

Direct trade as the name suggests, is a trade carried out directly between the roaster and the planter. In this scenario, a roaster approaches a small or an established farm directly and sources coffee as per their liking through direct trade. 

This helps roasters develop a closer and long lasting relationship with farmers and in turn farmers get a chance to be introduced directly to consumers as a part of traceability. 

So in conclusion a coffee that scores above 80 or the non-floaters usually developing profiles like fruity, floral and sweet are determined as specialty coffee. And Where quality, sustainability, direct trade and processing is given more importance than others. 

Now that we know what specialty coffee is, the next question coming to our mind can be how to buy, which one to and how to brew it ?

Most common questions asked about speciality coffee which I believe we all will agree include:

  1. Can I add this ground coffee directly to my milk 
  2. Can I buy ground coffee or will I get beans 
  3. Is your coffee too bitter, do I need to add a lot of sugar 
  4. And so on..

So basically, specialty coffee is naturally sweet and often characterised by so many complex flavours like the gungegiri estate anaerobic naturals we have at tastes like jucy pineapples and bright pinot noir. 

Again, determining these flavours is based on several factors including the flavour wheel, cupping, roasting and more.  

A deep dive into this is also planned for upcoming episodes.


So then how to brew?

There is a lot of equipment, but honestly no equipment at all can also brew a good cup of specialty coffee. 

For eg, all you need to do is, visit your favorite roaster’s online store, then locate the coffee you like, before buying choose the channi grind and checkout. 


A channi grind is more like a coarsely ground coffee that does not pass the traditional sieves we have inside our kitchens. 


Brewing recipe and technique can be: 

Take a spoon full of coffee and pour into an empty mug of your choice. 

Boil water and give it a good swirl. 

Pour it directly on top of the coffee and let it sit for 4 minutes. 

Strain it once and twice if required or use a double strainer and enjoy just black or with milk. 


But of course, there is a lot of equipment available which you might have seen and heard of. 

To name a few, the hario v60, the origami dripper, kalita wave, chemex, aeropress, espresso machines, french press and many more…


And by the way, many roasters today offer specialty coffee DRIP and DIP bags too. They make the entire process convenient and travel friendly. So next time you travel a DRIP bag can honestly come in handy if you do not wish to compromise on your coffee. 


So, to conclude today’s episode,


To be honest I have met many people who go from instant to commercial to specialty, but never the other way around. 


In anycase, not to disregard any type of coffee or to disrespect anyone’s preference. I believe coffee is best enjoyed when you keep experimenting with different roasts and roasters, when you brew it your way, your brewing methods and your choice of equipment that works best for you. 


As a specialty coffee roaster, all we can do is keep serving better quality coffee and push boundaries through radical processing methods and blends.  


And this is it. 

That concludes today's episode.


Let me know what you the listeners think.  

To leave your thoughts on this episode email to 


Remember to keep brewing and enjoy.

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