In a short YouTube clip, Creative Director of Onyx Coffee Lab Jon Allen returns to the basics by providing a succinct definition of specialty coffee and why it should be valued. Though the technical definition is associated with a minimum 80-point sensory score of a coffee - its acidity, sweetness and aroma - the backstory to specialty requires more understanding in differentiating it from commodity coffee.
The high standards of specialty coffee make production much more precise, meaning that the amount of money to produce a kilogram is far less than high-yield commodity coffee. Varieties have smaller yields, fertiliser is required and the picking and filtering of defects requires education, Allen outlines.
Then to think that something grown 10,000 miles away, picked, exported, imported, brewed lands in the U.S. market at $2 - 4 per cup is remarkable. Allen goes further to state that Americans are lucky even to have this beautiful beverage that we don't produce in their own soil.
Change is afoot though. Though coffee was decades behind wine on notoriety in the early 2000s, specialty coffee has taken that “mantle” to educate consumers on the importance of the everyday beverage - a battle that has been won according to Allen, who now sees a completely different kind of Onyx customer coming through the doors in Arkansas and online.
Ultimately, specialty coffee still depends on cheap labour and therefore lacks equity / ownership at origin. Allen expects this to change with farms becoming their own brands. This will mean producers control their coffee and can increase their financial security, economics already common in brewing and wine.
Learn more about Onyx Coffee Lab at onyxcoffeelab.com