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Specialty coffee

Speciality coffee is the highest-grade coffee of single origin or even originating from a single estate. Demand for the high-quality coffee arose in the Third wave of coffee movement supporting consumers’ request for distinctive flavours and transparency of origin. The coffee from Eastern African countries is appreciated for their unique taste, small farmers production and a potential to offer many more flavours due to the great genetic variety.

Nutrition and bioactive compounds

Speciality coffee is graded according to the standards of Speciality Coffee Association. The standards are set for every stage of coffee production, including defects in green beans and brew strength.

Three major requirements are that coffee should: (1) be hand picked by selective picking of mature beans, (2) score 80 or above (out of 100 points) in the grading evaluation, (3) have maximum 5 defects per 350 g (12 ounces). Coffee is graded Outstanding if it scores 90-100 points, Excellent with grade 85-89.99, and Very Good with 80-84.99 points.

Major bioactive compound in coffee is caffein (concentration depends on variety and preparation: roughly from 40 – 200 mg in 100 ml of beverage), but it contains also minerals (potassium, zinc, copper, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus) and vitamins B (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, B6, folate). Moderate coffee consumption has some health benefits, and long-term consumption probably reduces risk for diseases like digestion, cardiovascular disease, mental health, diabetes and even longevity.


Coffee beans are the seeds of berries growing on the flowering shrubs of some species from genus Coffea. The two most grown species are C. arabica and C. canephora (Robusta coffee). Between the two, Arabica coffee is of higher quality, with more complex flavours and aromas, but is more sensitive to climatic conditions.

Speciality coffee is grown in the tropical climate of Africa, Asia, South and Central America. Coffee quality strongly depends on local climatic (sun radiation, temperature, rain), topological (elevation, slope steepness, etc.) and soil parameters. The combination of these parameters is unique for each region, giving the coffee its special flavour. In Eastern Africa countries, coffee can be grown in several environments: forest, semi-forest conditions, as a garden or plantation coffee.

Market and production

Worldwide production of coffee (green) in 2020: 10.7 million tonnes (FAO), more than 1 million tonnes in Eastern Africa.

Main producing countries in the world: Brazil, Viet Nam, Colombia; Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya in Eastern Africa.

Smallholder households produce about 95% of coffee in Ethiopia and 60% in Kenya. In Ethiopia, all coffee production is rain-fed and largely organic (less than 10% of farmers use agrochemicals). In Kenya, coffee farming is mainly done by the small farmers organised into co-operative societies.

Europe is a major coffee market accounting for 30% of global consumption, with a growth in demand for specialty coffee. The demand is rising also in US and the coffee-production countries. In Australia and New Zealand, specialty coffee is considered mainstream, while Asia is predicted to soon be the world’s largest consumer of speciality coffee.


  • Beans: coffee beverages – espresso, brewed, instant, addition to food products.

  • Coffein: cosmetics.

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