Coffee Questions: What is Specialty Coffee? by Caleb Savage

Specialty Coffee

“What’s the difference between a good cup of coffee and ‘Specialty’ coffee?”

Simply put: A good cup of coffee is any coffee you like to drink. Specialty coffee is a technical standard given to green (unroasted) coffees that meet or exceed a list of standards defined by the Specialty Coffee Association or SCA.

 Green Coffee

Green Coffee

Grading & Defects

Why do some coffees have letters like AA or PB following the name?

It’s their grade or size! Countries may use terms like “Supremo” or lettering to give designation between sizes of the beans or number of defects like rocks or chipped beans found in a small sample of the coffee. 

In Kenya, where lettered sizing is the standard, AA refers to the largest sized beans, AB the size immediately smaller, PB referring to Peaberries, a mutation in which a coffee cherry forms only one seed (or bean) instead of two, and E for Elephant referring to an ear-like shape, similar to the mutation that creates peaberries.


Effects on Taste

“Is a Peaberry sweeter than a normal coffee bean?”

Maybe, maybe not. While most grading systems give some sort of designation to quality, defect, or taste in cup, coffee is still a complex drink with varying techniques of care, preparation, production, and consumption. Coffees harvested from the same farm may contain different varieties of coffee plants. Coffee cherries from the same plant may be processed a handful of ways. Entire crops of coffee may be bought by dozens of roasters and prepared with varying beliefs of roast time or the natural flavors of the coffee. Finally, a brewer may manipulate the taste of the coffee based on all the previous steps to produce a cup that a co-worker might interpret completely differently.


Good, with guidelines

Ultimately, a cup of coffee is only as good as the experience surrounding it. While the diversity of coffee and the diversity of palates create a multitude of definitions of “good”, we can use grading, the standards that define “Specialty”, and the interpretation of coffee that roasters and cafes use to define and describe the coffees they serve as a framework to give us a better understanding of what makes coffee so special.


Coffee Questions

This post is a part of a series of articles written to answer the questions you may have wondered but might not have asked. Have a question? Contact us here!

August Special - Agave Lime Latte! by Caleb Savage

It’s the first of the month and that means it’s time for a new drink special! The Maple Pecan Cold Brew will stay around for a little bit longer and you’ll still be able to order the Oatmeal Latte from the Secret Menu. For August, we’re introducing a new syrup, Agave Lime!

Agave Lime Myriad Gardens.jpg

Honey Water

Sometimes known as aguamiel or “honey water”, agave nectar is made from the agave plant grown primarily in Central and Southern Mexico. As a sweetener, agave nectar is sweeter than sugar with a slight caramel taste increasing in intensity based on the color of nectar and variety of agave plant used.

Agave Plant Myriad Gardens.jpg

Agave plants are also used in the production of Mezcal and its more famous variation, Tequila. While Mezcal can be made from the juice of the piña or fruit of any variety or blend of varieties of agave, tequila is a type of mezcal that uses only Agave tequilana, commonly known as Blue Agave and must be grown in the Mexican state of Jalisco or one of a limited list of municipalities in a handful of states surrounding Mexico’s fourth most-populous state.

Agave & Coffea arabica

Just like the coffee plant takes five years to mature and begin producing coffee cherries, an agave plant takes an average of eight to twelve years before it can be harvest for syrup, Mezcal, or Tequila. Coffee and agave are also similar in producing the final products of coffee (the drink) and Mezcal or Tequila. Farmers may choose to grow a handful of specific varieties of agave or coffee plant on the same farm and blend the juice or seeds or a cooperative might blend the same varieties from a number of farms into their final product.

Coffea arabica and Agave tequilana are also unfortunately similar in their growing scarcity. For coffee, an explosive growth in consumption combined with low wages, climate change and disease threaten the availability of high quality coffee in coffee’s most famous and historic growing regions. For agave, a fluctuating market price, increasing popularity of Agave Nectar, and the fact that we’re often consuming a product planted over a decade ago impacts the price and quality of a Happy Hour Margarita.

Agave Lime Latte.jpg

Lattes & Cream Sodas

Our Agave Lime syrup tastes great hot or iced in a latte or in an Espresso Cream Soda! This syrup is a take on your classic vanilla latte with a prominent floral aroma and a refreshing clean citrus finish. You’ll notice a more complex sweetness similar to caramel.

Whether you’re looking for a new flavor combination or a summery drink that works in any type of Oklahoma weather, the Agave Lime Latte is a great fit!

Shout out to our neighbors at the Myriad Botanical Gardens for letting us take some pictures and learn about plants with them. Check them out to learn more! They have a lime tree, tons of varieties of agave plants, coffee plants, and a plethora of botany knowledge! More pics below!

New Artist - Christie Owen by Steve Willingham

If you haven’t been in the shop in the past couple days, you’ve missed it! We have new art! We’ve loved having P Brewster’s engaging pieces in the shop and now it’s time to welcome a new artist, Christie Owen.

Originally from New York, Christie Owen currently resides in Edmond spending her time as both an artist and graphic designer. Christie enjoys the challenge of process and progress as an artist:

“I like to find visual solutions and utilize a variety of tools, mediums and applications to transfer concepts and techniques from project to project in order to keep evolving. I find a simultaneous harmony going back and forth between working without intention and careful planning. The materials I use help guide my process while searching for new combinations.”

 Jupiter (Acrylic on Panel)

Jupiter (Acrylic on Panel)

Work Influences Work

Her work as a graphic designer influences her work as an artist creating a healthy interplay of the two professions. “My work tends to have a rustic and heavily textured quality as a result of my visceral approach but the final result is intended to appear quiet to reflect a “less is more” outlook on life and art. Making art is a way for me to escape the technological realm, contemplate modern living and nature and then communicate how each domain influences another.”

 Happy Go Lucky (Acrylic and Resin on Panel)

Happy Go Lucky (Acrylic and Resin on Panel)

“It is my intention to engage the viewer to utilize the art, fill a void with something beautiful, improve emotional and environmental disposition and evoke a sense of balance and tranquility in the modern world.”

About Christie

“[Christie Owen] is represented by Nault Gallery and Kasum Contemporary. Her most recent solo exhibition was at The Oklahoma Hall of Fame Gaylord-Pickens Museum and she was an invitational artist at Oklahoma Contemporary's Art Now. Public installations include the NBA Thunder VIP Lounge and Penn Square Mall. She has also exhibited at Science Museum Oklahoma and Mabee Gerrer Museum of Art. Upcoming shows this Fall include Nault Gallery, Verbode and Leslie Powell Art Foundation Gallery. Christie is the Co-Founder of FRINGE Oklahoma Women’s Art Organization and owner of Hive Design. She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from State University of New York College at Buffalo.”

Coffee + Bikes in OKC by Caleb Savage

Clarity Coffee and Bike Trails

It’s a great time to ride a bike in OKC! From great events like the Myriad Gardens’ Full Moon Ride and the Pro-Am Classic, to bike tours from Ride OKC, Spokies bike share program, and the City of Oklahoma City’s first comprehensive bike and pedestrian plan, BikeWalkOKC, more and more of our friends and neighbors are leaving their cars in the driveway and exploring our city on two wheels!

As we continue our focus on sustainability in the coffee industry, we wanted to highlight a significant and sustainable part of coffee shops, bicycles! We heard from our dear friend and regular most qualified to speak to the intersection of coffee-sipping and bike-riding, Chad Hodges!

Spokes & ‘Spros

It’s not uncommon to see a bike or two outside any coffee shop. At Clarity, that bike’s probably owned by a barista! Even Google Street View sports Steve’s trusty steed at the rack. Cycling and coffee go together for two reasons: caffeine and affordability!

Main Street Bike Rack OKC.jpg

Cyclists love the mid-ride boost an espresso or cappuccino gives a ride. “You plan your rides around coffee stops,” says Chad, “It’s a great time to catch your breath, refuel, and say hi to all our barista friends.”

Baristas love the two-wheeled commute because it’s a cheap way to get from shop to shop without having to worry about parking, and allowing them to spend more time and money on the things that matter most to them!

A Connected Network

Looking for a longer ride? Explore our trails and bike route network! Chad enjoys heading “out to Jones, out to do a lap around Draper lake, or maybe just hit the river trails and ride out to Overholser. If I’m getting to squeeze a coffee stop in, then I’m definitely stopping at Elemental or Clarity... or BOTH on a great day! Once downtown has a way out to Draper that’s mostly trail, it’ll be great and more cyclists will get to enjoy the new trail going in around the lake.” A connection from Downtown to Draper is in City plans thanks to BikeWalkOKC!

Oklahoma River Bike Trail

Approved back in the Spring, BikeWalkOKC has four primary goals:

1) walking and cycling is safe in Oklahoma City
2) greater numbers of people are walking and cycling for transportation
3) neighborhoods are connected to jobs, transit, commercial
4) barriers to walking and cycling are removed

Through eight different initiatives BikeWalkOKC sets the course for the future of active transportation in Oklahoma City.

Bike Lanes OKC.jpg

Looking Back

When Chad started riding, he says, "there was a 'river trail'; there certainly weren’t the green bike lanes your find throughout OKC, and there wasn’t a district like Film Row who did a little forward thinking and did an incredible job incorporating bike lines into their renovation.

"I think OKC is headed in the right direction and as you see more and more cyclists on the streets it’ll continue to move forward.”

Are you a regular river-trail rider in need of a pre/mid/post ride caffeine boost?

Here’s how Chad gets to us from the river: “I ride up Robinson, to Reno, then over to Hudson and up to Main. I’m not sure it’s the best way, but I enjoy the ride through Hub Cap Alley, and the view of the city crossing the overpass.”

OKC Bike Trails

If you’re a cyclist looking to pick up coffee or coffee drinker looking to check out why everyone talks so much about bikes, listen to Chad:

“The communities built around coffee & bikes are amazing. If someone might be a little nervous to test the waters in either, I’d encourage them to jump in. You’ll find some of the best people around pulled up to a cafe bar or pedaling through the city.”