Erna Knutsen started out as a secretary in a coffee trading company, where she was fascinated by “special” coffees, in which the beans were characterized by unique aromas and flavours that were very different from more “basic” coffees.
In the ‘70s, Erna, as a woman, could not access the tasting rooms, let alone the roasting machine. However, in 1985, she managed to buy the company that she worked for, renaming it Knutsen Coffees, Ltd. She began, through letters and faxes, to shape an entire generation of Specialty coffee lovers, emphasizing quality, identity and distinction, which could be understood by knowing about origins and professional tasting methods, as well as about processing and roasting techniques.
In a nutshell, Erna Knutsen defined a Specialty coffee as having high-quality characteristics that make it somehow individual with a recognizable character. As Filippo Mazzoni, coffee-tech specialist at Gruppo Cimbali, explains, “coffee is classified through a CQI (Coffee Quality Association) tasting protocol, which assigns a maximum score of 100 points. Coffee with over 80 points can be defined as Specialty.”
“Specialty coffee,” continues the expert, “is niche in numerical terms, but it is becoming a guiding light for the commercial world, which it inspires and educates. The direction of the market is not only evident from the opening of new coffee shops with a varied offer of single-origin coffee and blends, but also from the experiential approach to the world of coffee, in which we share information related to species, variety, origins, terroir, harvesting methods and processing steps.” The creation of a Specialty coffee begins in a plantation, where farmers decide to use a particular botanical variety in a particular plantation area, from which you can obtain highly selected drupes that undergo precise processing methods in order to enhance their quality.
“Specialty coffee,” concludes Mazzoni, “is coffee which, in the cup, possesses a personality that distinguishes it. Generally, they are coffees that have a certain acidity, with a low level or absence of bitterness, and a very large range of olfactory properties, from classic notes such as toasted bread, chocolate and dried fruit to hints of fruit with pulp and red fruits, as well as citrus and floral notes.” In short, this extraordinary product deserves to be well-known and available. Curious people are not satisfied with coffee as just a commodity, but want to discover true rarities.