Woman Displaying Gourmet Coffee Beans

A Question Every Coffee Lover Asks: What Is Gourmet Coffee

When you ask someone what is gourmet coffee, people often think of it as something of high quality that is better than a coffee you drink every day, and it is, or at least it should be.

According to coffe.org, the consumer should be the one who decides whether the coffee is gourmet, not the seller. They also state that true gourmet coffee is typically made from Arabica coffee beans.

The Problems

Even though you can go to any supermarket and buy coffee that seems to be premium or gourmet, it’s very unlikely that you’ll get what you pay for.

Here are the problems:

  1. Most coffee sold all over the world is so-called commodity coffee, the one that is not grown for taste but purely for volume.
  2. All the coffee available on the shelves of a supermarket, in restaurants, as well as in cafes, is stale. Incredibly stale.
  3. Over-burning. Coffee roasted dark does not actually taste like coffee anymore.

So, we have low-quality beans that are left to stale and roasted way too much.

That doesn’t sound promising, right? You deserve to experience the real, delicious taste of the coffee but be warned, you might get hooked and not want to drink the same coffee you’ve been waking yourself up with for years.

Finding the answer

Unfortunately, we have a term that is tossed around every now and then -- gourmet. Like we’ve all seen with the word “premium,” the same thing is happening here with so many brands claiming that their coffee is premium or gourmet.

Browsing the web to find out what is gourmet coffee will leave you as confused as you were before, if not even more. Maybe the best answer there is out there is a comment by a commenter on Quora.com who said that the term gourmet coffee by itself means nothing.

That is partially true, in some cases. In some other cases, it is just a text on the packaging to attract more buyers.

The Qualifiers

Many experts argue over what qualifies coffee as gourmet, and it is a high probability that all of them are right. To narrow down, one of these three terms qualify coffee as gourmet.

  • Estate-grown
  • Difficulty of growing or processing
  • Additional flavors


Estate-grown coffee is the one harvested from a single coffee plantation. This ensures that the coffee can pass certain quality control and that it’s not mixed with lower quality beans to increase the quantity.

Growing and processing

Some types of coffee beans grow only in small regions with specific climatic conditions. Others go through delicate processing to retain the special taste.

Probably the most known example of this is the world’s most expensive coffee – Kopi Luwak. The processing of the beans is quite uncommon as it goes through a digestive system of a civet cat and then collected. The so-called cat poop coffee can cost up to $100 for a single cup.

Flavored gourmet coffee

Another qualifier for gourmet is flavor. Flavor has to be added during the processing to achieve the quality required for it to be gourmet. The more common flavors are vanilla and hazelnut, while more decadent one are caramel or coconut.

Not every coffee expert or fan will agree to the statement that flavoring coffee makes it gourmet, many would argue that it ruins the original flavor of the beans or that the flavor is added to mask the lower quality beans. Opinions will always vary.


There are no regulations to what gourmet coffee is. However, there SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) have defined the term “specialty coffee” which refers to about 20% of the coffee produced all over the world. To qualify for this rank, three simple concepts are applied:

  • Potential – Coffee is grown on the appropriate intersection of cultivar, micro-climate, soil chemistry, and husbandry.
  • Preservation – Coffee picked at the right time or at the peak of ripeness.
  • Revelation – Roasting, developing flavors and packaging.

By pure logic, we conclude that if we want to buy gourmet coffee we can’t go wrong with specialty coffee. Simple, easy, and safe.

The Revelation

Some people will spend their whole lives drinking coffee every day without ever having a taste of gourmet coffee. Some will find the secret gourmet coffee recipe in their grandma’s locker. It is hard to tell and hard to define gourmet, the only one thing is certain – it’s not gourmet if you don’t like it.

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