By Ellie Hudson Matuszak
Differentiation. It is a word that many of us, as specialty coffee professionals, use and occasionally even overuse. It is a word and a concept that some love and others loathe. It is highly specific in meaning but can also be used as a catch-all to describe the ultimate goals and purpose of the specialty coffee industry and our vision of what success looks and tastes like.
We have hundreds of ways of differentiating coffee, from the basic (“I like this one but not that one”) to the highly orchestrated, such as the Q-grader and Q-certification program (see Craig Holt’s article, “Q Up,” in this issue) and the Golden Cup Award (see scaa.org for more information). Once a coffee is differentiated, as an industry we can classify it according to grade, price, and other quality standards, which allows all participants to be rewarded for genuine efforts to promote and develop quality.