Specialty Coffee Shops vs. Mainstream Cafes: A Cup Will Let You Savor the Difference

By Paul  |  February 12, 2019

Specialty coffee shops are different from mainstream cafes for a lot of reasons, from the coffee beans to the culture behind them. Find out the differences.

Can you smell it?

That unmistakable scent that tells you its coffee and someone’s brewing a cup nearby. That bitter-y yet oh-so-satisfying smell that you know will give you that “pick me up” you so desperately need.

Because even if it’s your second or third cup, coffee never fails to jolt your senses and rejuvenate you.

Some may agree. Some may disagree.

But everyone can agree that not all coffee is made equal.

Get a cup from Starbucks India, and you’ll be as happy as can be.

But get a cup from Blue Tokai Coffee Roaster, and that first sip is an otherworldly experience.

This, my friend, is what differentiates coffee from speciality coffee shops from mainstream cafes.

Can’t tell the difference?

Here’s a closer look…

Not just your regular coffee beans

Photo Courtesy : Blue Tokai Coffee Roaster

Specialty-grade coffee beans score 80 to 100 points on a 100-point scale set by the Speciality Coffee Association of America (SCAA), a scoring system used around the world.

In the Q Grade score sheet, coffee beans are considered specialty if they scored 80-84.99 (Very Good), 85-89.99 (Excellent), and 90-100 (Outstanding). These beans also need to be grown at the right time of the year, at the perfect altitude, in good soil and then harvested with care.

Beyond these coffee beans, however, is a mindset and attitude that is specifically associated with specialty coffee.

There is love from farm to cup

The relationship is a big part of what makes coffee more special. This means the relationship between farmers and coffee shops. Also, this encompasses the relationship between coffee shops and their customers.

Third Wave Coffee Roaster, for instance, has made a partnership with the finest producers of specialty coffee and takes pride in them. This coffee shop not only brings the coffee the farmers produce into the shop but also their story. So the flavors you experience in every cup is a blend of carefully grown coffee beans and well-nurtured relationships.

Expect quality to a whole new level

Don’t you just love the foam art that comes with your cup of classic cappuccino from Costa?

In some specialty coffee shops, however, art is in the process of making your coffee, not on the foam.

And you definitely won’t see that kind of art at the Curious Life Coffee Roasters in Jaipur. As what the proprietor Neeraj Sheoran said, “Our cappuccinos will never have art on them because a good cappuccino should have foam so thick a design can’t come through. What they really wanted was a latte.”

This may be disappointing for some. But what the nondescript coffee shop offers is an experience with coffee. Every cup that comes out is carefully brewed with little to no defects.

If you come to the coffee shop early enough, you will see Sheoran brewing coffee, tasting it, and unceremoniously throwing it down the drain if it doesn’t taste right.

And he doesn’t mind starting over again.

There’s a community behind specialty coffee

The joy of Coffee Community I Photo courtesy: Koinonia Coffee Roasters

Remember relationship priorities?

In India, the specialty coffee industry is still a nascent one despite the growing number of single estate brands and new roasteries. Unlike the mecca for the specialty coffee industry such as Columbia, Ethiopia, and Kenya, India is still growing.

Karnataka’s Chikamagalur is home to some of India’s best arabicas. But nearly three-quarters of the entire country’s coffee is exported. Only a few farmers grew specialty coffee beans, too, because of the specific conditions required to grow them.

This means specialty coffee shops must build a lasting relationship with farmers and producers, helping each other to bring more-than-good coffee to customers. It also takes a special customer to fully appreciate specialty coffee. And the ones who do sets aside a closely-guarded place in their heart for specialty coffee shops.

A cup can go beyond pure coffee

Specialty coffees have distinct flavors, depending on how and where the beans are grown. So expect that pure black coffee you ordered may have a hint of spice or sweetness or fruity or chocolate notes.

At the Koinonia Coffee Roasters, your tastebuds will have a coffee adventure. Their Badra (Dark Roast), for example, has sweet and spice perfectly blended into it because the beans were inter-planted with Areca nut, Coconut, and Pepper.

The Orchardale (Medium Roast), on the other hand, boasts of a nutty flavor with a subtle acidity that cleans your palate before you take that next sip.

Suffice it to say that a cup in specialty coffee shops is anything but ordinary.

How about a cup of specialty coffee?

When Cafe Coffee Day opened in Bengaluru, India in 1996, the tea-drinking nation has never been the same. It changed how people perceived coffee, particularly the youth who thinks coffee drinking is dull and should only be done at home.

It introduced a new coffee culture that made drinking the brew a social, everyday experience.

There’s really nothing wrong with that.

But if you truly want a coffee experience that is unique, get a cup from specialty coffee shops where beans are roasted to their own unique specification, resulting in flavors with the best attributes and with no uniformity that you’ll likely taste in mainstream cafes.

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