Gourmet Coffee & Specialty Coffee: How Does It Differ From Regular Coffee?


Not all coffee is the same. There are many qualities that set apart types of coffee. “Gourmet” and “specialty” are words that are commonly used to distinguish coffee, but what do they really mean?

Coffee beans spilling out of a bag onto wooden surface.

Understanding terms like these can help coffee lovers feel more confident about the choices they make, know what to look for in the store, and understand how to find the best coffee for your palette and budget. In this guide, we address the following topics and more: 

What is gourmet coffee?

Red cherries on coffee tree.The demand for exceptional coffee and the standards for distinguished coffee are rising. Coffee companies must find ways to communicate the quality of their coffee product, making the term “gourmet coffee” a popular and attractive descriptor. 

There is no official definition of gourmet coffee; the exact definition depends on who you ask. Some will say that gourmet coffee is flavoured, others will say it is carefully cultivated, and others will say it is made from 100% Arabica beans. 

When discussing carefully cultivated coffee, a more precise term might be “specialty coffee.” Gourmet, specialty coffee is made from 100% arabica beans from a single origin or estate, lightly roasted, and consumed as fresh as possible. Although in the strictest sense, the term “speciality” does describe San Francisco Bay Coffee, we still think of our coffee as speciality due to the exceptionally high standards we maintain for growing, harvesting, roasting, packaging, and selling. 

What is specialty coffee?

Specialty coffee is a specific type of coffee that must meet certain criteria to earn the nomenclature. The term specialty coffee is overseen by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA). The SCA sets standards for coffee to achieve the specialty ranking. There is a 100-point scale, and coffee must earn at least an 80 to get the right to use the word “specialty.” Our San Francisco Bay Coffees are certified by the Specialty Coffee Association.

What makes gourmet and specialty coffee
different from regular coffee? 

Iced coffee on blue background.

When talking about gourmet coffee in the context of specialty, and not flavoured coffee, several qualities set it apart from regular coffee. 

Higher Quality Beans 
Specialty and gourmet coffee are grown with great care and attention. Harvesting is more meticulous, the beans are picked at peak ripeness, and the coffee is roasted in small batches. The beans are selected for their flavour and aroma and roasted carefully. The beans are incredibly fresh and come from locations with microclimates ideal for growing delicious coffee beans so connoisseurs can really taste the terroir, or the taste and flavour imparted by the environment. 

More Complex Flavour 
Regular coffee from mass-produced beans and grounds has a more standardized, consistent flavour. Due to the attention to detail in the cultivation, harvesting, and processing, there is more variability with gourmet and specialty coffee. Mindful drinkers can detect subtle notes such as  chocolate, fruit, florals, and more.

Conscious Coffee Consumption 
With gourmet and specialty coffee, consumers can learn the story of the coffee because it is often single origin or single estate. The coffee can be traced to a specific place and farm, which allows for a more personal connection to the coffee-drinking experience. 

More Sustainable 
Gourmet and specialty beans adhere to rigorous environmental standards along with ethical labor and farming practices. There is a focus on rejuvenating the land, fair trade, supporting the livelihood of farmers, and preserving the environment. 

7 Tips for Buying Specialty & Gourmet Coffee

Pile of medium roast coffee beans.

Specialty and gourmet coffee have a lot to offer to coffee lovers. Here are our tips for finding excellent specialty and gourmet coffee. 

  1. Choose reputable roasters that commit to and deliver quality. 
  2. Purchase beans that have been roasted recently and aim to consume the coffee within two to four weeks after opening. 
  3. Look for coffee that is certified organic, uses the trademark Speciality name, and has additional certifications like Enveritas
  4. Understand how roast levels impact flavour, texture, and caffeine levels. 
  5. Ask knowledgeable staff for recommendations if you are unsure what to try. 
  6. Opt for a sample or variety pack to experience many different brews and find your favourite. 
  7. Experiment with different origins, roast levels, and brewing methods to see what you enjoy the most. 

Where To Buy Gourmet Coffee & Specialty Coffee

At San Francisco Bay Coffee, we are passionate about providing you with the freshest, most flavourful specialty coffee experience. Our specialty beans are carefully selected and roasted to perfection, ensuring an unforgettable taste with every sip. To find the perfect specialty coffee for you, visit our shop today.