The distinctions between Commercial Coffees & Speciality Coffees

Commercial Coffee Beans, Commercial Coffee

To answer this question we must begin by clearly defining what we mean by the terms; Commercial Coffee & Speciality Coffee. Commercial Coffee refers to coffee which is produced and marketed on a large scale, and is generally catering to mass markets. You don’t have to look very far to find commercial coffees as you’ll see them on the shelves of your local supermarket or convenience store. Commercial coffee can be sourced from beans which are grown all over the world, but most commonly in Central and South America, Africa and India.

Buyers of commercial grade coffee beans are looking for the following qualities in their beans:

  • Consistent flavour which appeals to a broad range of coffee drinkers.
  • Consistent quality beans which should be free from defects and meet a defined grade.
  • Medium roasted beans which gives a broad and well-rounded taste
  • An aroma that gives a hint of popular smells such as chocolate, caramel, nuts, or fruit.
  • Affordable beans which are within the budget of most consumers 

By contrast, specialty coffees are known for their superior quality and premium-grade characteristics. Speciality coffee beans that are very carefully cultivated, harvested, and processed. They tend to come from the same source that is known for having a particular character. Purchasers of speciality grade coffee beans demand:

  • The very highest quality of beans which have been carefully picked and sorted.
  • A highly distinctive flavour and taste which is often complex in nature.
  • Buyers of speciality coffee often prefer their beans to be sourced from a single origin. 
  • Specialty coffee buyers will be keen to buy pre-roasted beans that are roasted to exacting standards.
  • Labelling such as Fair Trade, Organic, and Rainforest Alliance, attest that coffee products meet set criteria
  • A high cupping scores denotes exceptional quality as deemed by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA)

Despite the premium nature of speciality coffee, commercial coffee should never be thought of as a ‘lesser product’. Indeed, commercial coffee is both convenient and accessible and can be purchased in many different forms to suit the consumers needs, including; ground, instant and pods. All of these commercial coffee products are designed to be affordable and easy to drink. Commercial coffee brands invest heavily in marketing and distribution to help make their products widely available and recognised by a large group of customers, and this is indeed the main way that those who are new to coffee are introduced into the wonderful world of coffee drinking!

Large-scale commercial coffee brands can also work directly with coffee farmers, cooperatives, and intermediaries to ensure a steady supply of coffee beans. This ensures there is a consistent flow of coffee products into the market, whilst also making sure that coffee-producing countries and regions have a steady income source. Such brands strive to strike a balance between mass appeal and offering a high quality and ethical coffee experience for anyone, and everyone.