The problem with “Specialty” coffee

David Walsh, with you’re post “specialty”, you’ve crystalized my thoughts perfectly…

Taken as a whole, the term speciality (emphasis mine), in its literal meaning and in its usage, for me fails to define this subset of the coffee industry.

Like “artisan”, “natural” and the like, “specialty” is too easily co-opted a term––when both Starbucks and a company like Tonx Coffee or Ecco Café can be grouped into the same category, there’s a problem. Unlike “organic” There’s no government regulation to tie down any one of those terms to a quantitative batch of variables. They are simply unregulated marketing-speak.

I don’t know that I agree with his call on his choice of word to replace it––“progressive”––but I also don’t know which other word one could use without having to replace it a year later.

I wish the part of the coffee industry I love didn’t have to resort to a catch-phrase at all. I quite like Geoff Watts’ quote in my prior post, “The one transcendent element in Zak Stone’s ‘The End of Cheap Coffee’” but then again, I suppose that even that bit of prose could be easily co-opted as well.

So, yeah, no answers but I agree that “specialty” really doesn’t cut it.

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One thought on “The problem with “Specialty” coffee

  1. I can agree with feelings on the word “specialty” as pertaining to the coffee industry, but knowing that one of the major players/organizations in the industry has “Specialty” in it’s name (SCAA – Specialty Coffee Association of America) makes me realize that the word will probably not be supplanted anytime soon.

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