Salviamo gli specialty coffee dalla moda degli specialty coffee 9 Ott 2023, 18:21 | a cura di Michela Becchi

Let's save specialty coffees from the specialty coffee trend 9 Oct 2023, 6.21pm | edited by Michela Becchi

A turning point has finally arrived, even for the world of coffee. We are still far from the level one would expect from a country like Italy , but things are changing and the coffee panorama of the Peninsula is becoming more and more interesting. Specialty is no longer an unknown word, but a sort of declaration of intent: a new place arrives in the city with the aim of making quality and, among the various proposals, it also includes specialty coffees. The pairing of the moment? Natural and specialty wines, a combination that seems to be becoming increasingly consolidated.

10 reasons why a bar calls itself "specialty"

But is it enough to include a single origin or a better blend on the menu to consider yourself a "specialty" bar? Let's be clear, there were activities that also pay more attention to the cup. Talking about popularity is still premature, but there is greater awareness among professionals, above all there is a trend, even on social media. And as always, when it comes to trends, the risk that the phenomenon obscures the content is high. Here, then, is a decalogue to understand what it really means to open a "specialty bar".

  1. Differentiation

Mind you, already having a good base mix is ​​a great place to start. But the world of black gold is made up of nuances of tastes, aromas, sensations, just like wine. Having only one proposal on the menu is a bit like offering a single bottle: although very good, it is limiting for those who want to discover something more about the product. Varying between different roasters, then, allows consumers to discover other realities, and perhaps support them later with purchases for their home.

  1. Service

Coffee must first of all be communicated. Even in Italy, especially in Italy, where the ancient culture of the cup has for a very long time held back the development of a new, more modern and aware approach. Extracting it at its best is not enough, it must be explained, accompanying customers through the tasting, especially if you are faced with people who are tasting a specialty for the first time.

  1. Training

As with waitstaff, chefs and hoteliers, bartenders need to be trained. Each bean has its own characteristics and deserves precise attention, particular extraction times and temperatures. Each extraction method has its rules, each manufacturer its peculiarities, each machine expresses its needs. Constant training and updating, these are the foundations for a specialty coffee shop.

  1. Adequate gastronomic offer

Over the years we have repeated several times how important it is for restaurants to highlight the cup, the last memory of a meal. Just as a good restaurant cannot leave out the choice of coffee, a good bar specializing in black gold must also pay attention to the gastronomic sector. Talking about sustainable, superior quality beans, roasted by micro-roasteries and then serving frozen croissants alongside the drink is a contradiction. It may be an initial compromise, but an established specialty bar must maintain an adequate standard across the board.

  1. Forget about trends

There are trends in every field, gastronomy first and foremost. What we eat is, in part, also decided by social media. And that's fine. Creating trends can be useful, but chasing them at all costs is often counterproductive. Above all, inconclusive: there is no need to have a croissant roll to gain the public's favor, just as there is no need to exaggerate with Latte Art decorations on cappuccinos. If it doesn't interfere with the rest of the offer, the fruits of trends are also welcome, otherwise a balanced cappuccino with expertly frothed milk is more than appreciated. Even without a pixie drawn on it.

  1. Price

Espresso is the only product in Italy to never increase , if not very little. And it is the one that most of all deserves a price increase. A specialty bar chooses high-quality coffee, from a traced and transparent supply chain, roasted by small companies (local or otherwise) and finally extracted by trained staff. All this has a cost, which must influence the final receipt. What is at stake is the valorisation of the raw material, and above all of those who work with it.

  1. Environment

Atmosphere is everything, Starbucks teaches it . If specialty coffees are "meditation" coffees, to be sipped calmly, taking in every nuance (especially if we are talking about filters), then the bar must be the ideal temple in which to stop and reflect. A relaxed, informal and welcoming atmosphere, attentive but not intrusive service. In short, the most sophisticated selection is not sufficient if there is no suitable environment in which to contemplate it.

  1. Specialty without special effects

In recent years, a very specific aesthetic has been defined for specialty baristas: denim apron, visible tattoos (with at least a branch of coffea arabica if possible), long beards for men, large colored hair bands for women . A hipster look that has overwhelmed various sectors, and just like the outfits of the bartenders, the furnishings of the premises have also become uniform. It would be nice, however, to see different coffee shops, less wood, less industrial, less "specialty-style". Let's be clear, there are alternatives in Italy, but we hope that every new young entrepreneur can find their own path without following pre-set standards. Aprons and "uniforms" are welcome, but without the need to amaze with special effects.

  1. Inform, without judging

It is perhaps the most difficult point, which involves all categories of the sector. Coffee is no exception, on the contrary: in Italy, above all, there are many false myths that need to be dismantled. And precisely for this reason a generous dose of patience is needed: the ritual of the cup is something sacred for Italians, dispelling clichés - from the crema that indicates the quality of the coffee to the myth of the "ristretto" - is an operation that done delicately. In any case, making customers feel judged is always wrong and disadvantageous.

  1. Specialty coffees are dead. Long live specialty coffees

Some, perhaps, would say that they were never born in Italy. But is not so. They are born, they are growing and sometimes even dying. They die in businesses that decide to follow the fashion of the moment, inserting the word specialty on the blackboard in plain sight outside the restaurant, without understanding its meaning. They die when they are poorly extracted, mortified by bartenders without adequate training, when they are debased and sold off in order to remain competitive on the market. When “specialty” becomes just a label, then good coffee dies. But the world of quality black gold, with its pioneers and its spokespersons, with new generations and innovative formats, with coffee championships and dedicated events, but above all with a new group of consumers who are starting to approach a different product, it is more alive than ever.

Long live specialty coffees.

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