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Talk Coffee to Me: Specialty Coffee FAQs

Specialty coffee is the highest quality of coffee out there, and is exactly what we stock right here at Change Coffee! If you’ve ever wondered what gives specialty coffee its edge, coffee blends, or the classification process, you’ve come to the right place.


What is coffee exactly? Where’s it from?

Great question! We usually refer to coffee as a bean, but coffee isn’t actually related to your green beans or chickpeas at home. Coffee is the seed of the coffee fruit, which produces red or purple “cherries.” It grows on trees in the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, on the North and South of the equator.


Arabica vs Robusta – What’s the deal?

These are the two main categories for coffee - think the tomato sauce in the fridge or pantry debate, but for the coffee world! There are dozens of coffee varietals (Bourbon, Caturra, Pacamara, Geisha, etc,) but they all fall within the Arabica or Robusta classification.

Arabica is higher grade, and usually grown at higher altitudes. This is exactly what we have here at Change Coffee! Arabica has a sweeter, smooth taste and goes down a treat. You may be able to taste a fruity, berry, or even caramel flavour. Our Ethiopian Sidama beans have a blueberry cheesecake tone – who says you can’t have dessert with brekky?

Robusta is lower grade and much easier to grow. It’s known for its punchy, pungent flavour and is higher in caffeine. Robusta’s extremely strong in taste, with a definitive petrol or diesel taste to it. This is what you will find in supermarket coffee pods, or stronger coffee options like Italian coffee.


What’s special about “Specialty” coffee? 

All coffee is scored on a 1-100 scale and specialty coffee score over 80 points.

300 grams of properly hulled coffee is checked after it’s screened. For context, that’s more coffee than what’s in an entire bag of our smaller Unite/Purpose blends!

First, coffee is sorted using screens (with literal sizes of the beans). Usually 100g is used because this is a very time-consuming process. Imagine looking at every single bean! Beans that are too big for the screen are weighed, with the percentage weight of the total being calculated. The coffees then need to be roasted and cupped to find out the cup characteristics. Specialty coffee has fairly even bean sizes so they can roast to perfection before ending up in your morning iced coffee.

 
How are coffee beans harvested?

Most specialty coffee is hand-picked with care. Because its grown at a higher altitude, coffee plants are usually on steep slopes. Only larger and flatter farms can use harvesting tractors, so machine picking is out of the question!


What do Change Coffee beans go through from crop to cup?

These beans have seen it all! After they’re harvested, they need to go through preliminary sorting, processing, drying, milling, grading – you name it. Its only after these extensive steps that they are sold wholesale to other cafes or direct retail, and end up in your cup.

specialty coffee process crop to cup

Why Fairtrade?  fairtrade logo change coffee australia new zealand

If you’re wondering what that blue and green logo is, here’s your answer. We use Fairtrade here at Change Coffee. As a business for impact, the people behind your morning java are our priority.

Fairtrade certification means that auditing occurs at every step of the supply chain. Farmers are protected, working conditions are safe and child labour-free, plus farming is sustainable!

On top of choosing Fairtrade certified coffee, we pay a Fairtrade Premium. 2% of every sale we make goes straight back to Fairtrade. For example, a $50 bag of coffee with that trusty Fairtrade logo would have $1 go back to the Fairtrade Premium. This 2% has a HUGE impact on the local community by funding vital social, economic and environmental programs, from education, to medical facilities.

Fairtrade also includes a minimum price, based on the New York Stock Exchange. This protects farmers if there’s a market crash; the price cannot dip below an international standard price. Here at Change Coffee, we work with specialty coffee, with farmers receiving far above this minimum.


What’s the purpose of roasting?

We roast to bring out the distinct flavours of the beans, caramelize natural sugars, and create a complex, balanced coffee overall. Roasting helps coffee dissolve in water. If you roast too lightly, the coffee will taste green and grassy and won’t dissolve. Darker roasts makes beans much easier to dissolve in water.


How and why do you guys blend coffee?

You can blend coffee for a variety of reasons, but usually it is to create complexity and balance. For example, we might use Brazilian coffee in a blend to bring a nutty flavour profile, Colombian to bring some chocolate and caramel notes, then an Ethiopian to add a pop of sweetness and fruity acidity (yum!)


How do I store and take care of my beans? 

Roasted coffee doesn’t have a definitive expiration date, but that doesn’t mean your beans are invincible. Coffee does have a prime window of freshness, where deliciousness is at its very peak (usually between 6-14 days!) This depends on the temperature, humidity as well as how you roast and store coffee.  


This tight window is primarily for your local café and their ordering rotation, but for  our at-home brewers, we’d recommend 5-30 days from roast. This window is still flexible (no, your coffee won’t go off at the 30 day mark!) If you store your beans properly, they can easily be enjoyed into a second month.

Heat and light are enemies of freshness. Be sure to store your coffee beans in an airtight container, away from any sneaky UV rays or heat!


Can I freeze my coffee?

Yep! If you have coffee you can’t use within 4 weeks, you’re better off freezing it than letting it go stale. Keep in mind that it’ll degrade the quality a little (5-10%,) but this is not nearly as much as the staling effects of oxygen.


What do your awards mean?

We’re very proud of Change Coffee being the bean of the crop! We’ve entered and won medals on the international stage, at two of the largest coffee competitions in the globe.

At the Golden Bean, our coffee was blind-tasted against over 1800 competitors, and similarly, we competed with over 800 competitors at the Australian International Coffee Awards (AICA).

Change Coffee’s accolades:

Purpose – Bronze AICA awards 2020 

Unite - Bronze Golden Bean 2019, Bronze AICA awards 2020 

Sidama Espresso roast - Bronze golden bean 2019 

Sidama Filter Roast - Silver Golden Bean 2019 

                         

Now you that you've leveled up your coffee knowledge, you might be interested in taking it one step further. Next time you drink your delicious coffee, try using this coffee tasters flavour wheel to help you describe its notes. You'll be the coffee connoisseur of your household - plus it's great trying it out when friends come round too!


Chelsea Rohrlach