All Coffee is Not Created Equal

All Coffee is Not Created Equal

Tom Maegdlin5/10/23

Not all coffee is created equal. There are two main types of coffee: commodity coffee and specialty coffee. At Hansa, you’ll only find specialty. While both types may come from the same plant, there are significant differences between them. Lets find out why.

Commodity Coffee

Commodity coffee, also known as commercial coffee, is produced in large quantities and traded on the commodity exchanges. It is typically grown at lower elevations and in large monoculture farms, with the focus on maximizing yield and reducing costs. The beans are often harvested using mechanical equipment, and then processed using a combination of wet and dry methods. The result is a coffee that is consistent in flavor and aroma, but lacks the distinctive qualities that make specialty coffee so unique.

One of the primary characteristics of commodity coffee is that it is priced based on market demand and supply. This means that the price of coffee can fluctuate significantly, depending on factors such as weather conditions, global economic conditions, and political instability. As a result, coffee farmers who rely on commodity coffee often face significant economic challenges, as they may not be able to cover their production costs if the market price falls too low.

Specialty Coffee

Specialty coffee, on the other hand, is produced in smaller quantities and traded outside of the commodity exchanges. It is typically grown at higher elevations, where the slower growth and cooler temperatures produce a denser bean with more complex flavors and aromas. The beans are usually hand-picked, and then processed using more labor-intensive methods such as natural or washed processing. The result is a coffee that is often described as having a distinct flavor profile, with notes of fruit, chocolate, or nuts.

Unlike commodity coffee, specialty coffee is not priced based solely on market demand and supply. Instead, the price is determined by a range of factors, including the quality of the beans, the location where they were grown, and the environmental and social conditions in which they were produced. As a result, specialty coffee can command a much higher price than commodity coffee, with some specialty coffees selling for more than $50 per pound.

The Benefits of Specialty Coffee

There are several benefits to choosing specialty coffee over commodity coffee. For one, specialty coffee is often produced in a more sustainable and ethical way. Because the price is not solely determined by market demand and supply, farmers can focus on producing high-quality beans in a way that is environmentally friendly and socially responsible.

Specialty coffee also offers a more diverse and interesting range of flavors and aromas. Because the beans are grown in specific microclimates and processed using unique methods, each batch of specialty coffee has its own unique characteristics. This means that coffee lovers can explore a wide range of different flavor profiles and discover new and interesting tastes.

Choosing specialty coffee can help support small-scale coffee farmers who are often marginalized by the global coffee industry. By paying a fair price for high-quality beans, consumers can help ensure that coffee farmers can continue to produce great coffee and support their families and communities.

While commodity coffee and specialty coffee may come from the same plant, they are two very different products. Specialty coffee is produced in smaller quantities, with a focus on quality and sustainability, and is priced based on a range of factors beyond market demand and supply. By choosing specialty coffee, consumers can enjoy a wider range of unique flavors and support small-scale coffee farmers around the world.

-Tom "Tommy Hansa" Maegdlin