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The History and Evolution of Specialty Coffee

Specialty coffee is a term used to describe high-quality coffee that is grown in specific regions, using specific methods, and is characterised by unique flavours and aromas. The history of specialty coffee can be traced back to the early 1900s, when coffee producers in Latin America and Africa began experimenting with new methods of growing and processing coffee beans.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the specialty coffee industry began to take shape in the United States, as coffee roasters and shops began to focus on sourcing and roasting high-quality beans.

This was also a time when coffee consumption in the US was on the rise, and consumers began to demand better-tasting coffee. In the 1980s and 1990s, the specialty coffee industry continued to grow, as more and more coffee roasters and shops began to focus on sourcing and roasting high-quality beans.

This was also a time when the concept of "fair trade" coffee emerged, which aimed to improve the lives of coffee farmers by paying them a fair price for their beans. In recent years, the specialty coffee industry has continued to evolve, with more emphasis on sustainability, direct trade, and traceability.

Many specialty coffee roasters now work directly with farmers to ensure that their beans are grown using sustainable methods, and that farmers are paid a fair price for their beans. Additionally, many specialty coffee shops now offer a wide variety of brewing methods, such as pour-over, French press, and syphon, to allow customers to experience the unique flavours and aromas of different coffees.

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact person who first created specialty coffee, as the concept has evolved over time and is the result of contributions from many different individuals and groups.

However, some key figures in the history of specialty coffee include:

Alfred Peet: Often considered the "father of specialty coffee" in the United States, Peet started his own coffee roasting company in Berkeley, California in 1966. He was known for his emphasis on sourcing high-quality beans and using dark roasting techniques to bring out bold flavours. Peet's Coffee was a major influence on the specialty coffee scene in the US, and many of the country's top coffee roasters today credit Peet as an inspiration.

George Howell: George Howell is another key figure in the specialty coffee industry, he started the Coffee Connection in Massachusetts in the 1970s and later, The Cup of Excellence, a international competition that promotes and rewards high-quality coffee production.

Erna Knutsen: Erna Knutsen is considered to be the first person to import and promote Specialty coffee in the United States. She began importing coffee beans from Latin America in the early 1980s, and her company, Knutsen Coffee Trading, was one of the first to focus specifically on sourcing high-quality beans.

Many other individuals and groups, such as coffee farmers, roasters, and baristas, have also played an important role in the development and evolution of specialty coffee over the years. Some key figures in the early development of specialty coffee outside of the US include:

Juan Valdez: Juan Valdez is a fictional character created by the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia in the 1950s to promote Colombian coffee. He was used in advertising campaigns to educate the public about the high-quality and unique characteristics of Colombian coffee, and helped to establish Colombian coffee as a premium product.

Norbert Schulp: He was a Dutch businessman and coffee aficionado, was one of the first to import, promote and sell specialty coffee beans in Europe in early 1980s. He started importing coffee beans from Latin America, Africa and Asia and worked with small farmers to improve the quality of their beans.

Specialty Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE) was established in 1986, it was one of the first organisations to promote the concept of specialty coffee in Europe and it helped to standardise the definition of specialty coffee and to promote high-quality coffee production and brewing methods.

Specialty Coffee Association of Japan (SCAJ) was established in 1996, it was one of the first organisations to promote the concept of specialty coffee in Asia and it helped to standardise the definition of specialty coffee and to promote high-quality coffee production and brewing methods.

These individuals and groups, along with many others, have played a significant role in the development and promotion of specialty coffee outside of the United States.

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