Specialty Vs Commodity

Specialty Vs Commodity Coffee: Is Specialty Coffee Worth the Price?

Posted by Vinod Jethwani on

Let’s talk a little about the number of reasons we pay more for specialty coffee, and what’s the difference between specialty and supermarket coffee. Most of the time, when we’re brewing our morning cup or waiting at our local café for a takeaway, we barely stop to think about what coffee is worth to the farmer.

The C Market

Coffee is traded on what is known as the C Market. It is the coffee commodity market in which global coffee prices are decided daily by traders on the stock exchange. It follows a supply-and-demand principle, and at any given time, a coffee farmer anywhere can deliver his/her coffee to a purchasing point and receive at minimum, the C Market price of the day. 

When coffee prices plunge, the hardworking farmers suffer, sometimes to the point of abandoning their coffee crops in order to plant a more profitable alternative such as a grain or fruit/vegetables. When farmers receive a fair price, they can afford to keep producing coffee, so it’s in our best interest to look after the farmers.

Unfortunately, even on a good day on the commodities market, many farmers barely clear enough of their crops to pay their workers and maintain their crops. Younger generations are moving away from farming to more lucrative careers and not taking ownership of the family enterprise.


Indonesian plantation. Image courtesy: Cofi-Com


Where Does Specialty Coffee Fit into This Picture?

Let’s face it: specialty just tastes better! Specialty grade is higher grade, better quality coffee for which farmers are paid more. Commodity coffee is gathered in large batches from multiple farms and regions and mixed together in huge lots.

The end result is the much lower grade coffee, which is typically what you'd find in your big supermarkets, as it’s cheaper to purchase mass-produced coffee.

Specialty coffees are graded for defects, and each crop is taste-tested by a panel of experts. Coffees must be defect-free and score 80 to 100.

Testing takes into consideration all the things we love about a good coffee: aroma, acidity, mouthfeel, balance and more. These scores are a direct result of the farmer’s hard work, from growing methods, care of the crop, picking and processing. The farmer’s goal is that each season's crop outperforms the previous and from this, we receive some truly awesome coffees.

Specialty growers deal directly with roasters and importers and are able to achieve higher prices - steering clear of the commodity trade. This is a much more lucrative way to operate and makes more sense for the farmer. However, not all farmers have access to the knowledge and equipment required to compete in the specialty market.

Our importer, who we have been working with for over ten years and who have been industry experts for over 30+ years has task teams on the ground in coffee regions to provide education and expertise to assist these growers to achieve more and more profitability.

This not only ensures a good supply of specialty coffee and benefits the farmer but also aids in the sustainability of the whole industry and gives growers the help they need in order to succeed.


All About the Origin

Mass gathered, commodity crops lack the distinctive flavours of specialty coffee. When roasters and importers buy from individual farms, they can pick and choose among what’s available, sourcing the best for your beloved cup.

Unlike low-grade coffees which are often roasted very dark to disguise the true flavour, specialty allows us to roast lighter and discover all those wonderful nuances that make up a delicious cup, from the berry notes and sparkling fruity acidity, to wine-like undertones or the rich, chocolatey mouthfeel that make us come back for more.


To Sum it Up

Specialty coffee is origin-based, down to the individual farm or co-op of local farmers. It pays a higher price to farmers and is more invested in the ongoing sustainability of the industry.

Further, it is roasted in smaller batches and enjoyed fresh - not vacuum packed to sit on the supermarket shelf for 12 months and lose its aroma and goodness!

Specialty coffee is quality graded and just tastes a whole lot better! So, give it a try; order your coffee today!

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Indonensian workers gather dried coffee beans
Farm workers gather dried coffee beans in Sumatra, Indonesia. Home of our single origin Indonesia

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