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SCA Cup Scores Explained

SCA Cup Scores Explained

Guest Post from Sarah, Wayne and James @ RoastLab.
You may have noticed our products have an "SCA Cup Score" next to each coffee. We pride ourselves on being speciality coffee roasters, and the word "speciality" is important to us. It means our coffee has been awarded a quality score of at least 80 or above. We have made a choice to only offer coffees that score 83 and above. Each additional point above 80 is exponentially more expensive. We’ve had coffees up to 88, a Kenyan coffee for which we received a lot of favourable feedback.

But do you know where that Quality Score comes from? And what it can tell you about what’s in your cup? Well, the SCA (Speciality Coffee Association) came up with a system to give every coffee a score out of 100. Here’s how it works:

Coffee Quality Scores Broken Down:

65 to 80 = Commodity Coffee
The type used to make supermarket coffee and instant.

80+ = Speciality Coffee
The flavours are more subtle, the cup more balanced. At Roast Lab Coffee Roasters, we only buy coffees 83 points and higher.

90+ = Presidential Award
These prestigious coffees make up less than 1% of the speciality coffee market because they are so rare. And they are very good! Think of the best bottle of wine produced in France that year!

What’s a coffee’s Quality Score based on?
Following a series of ‘cuppings’ from coffee tasting pros, a score is awarded based on several criteria:

Lack of defects
A coffee with any defects is unlikely to score more than 80 points as the penalty for meeting the criteria is so high. Between 1 and 3 points can be dropped if a defect is detected in the cup and multiplied by the number of cups in which it’s present.

There are lots of different types of sweetness in coffee; fruit, honey and sugar are three examples, the more distinct and pleasant, the higher the score.

Acidity can be malic (apple), tartaric (grapes) or citric. To get a high score, the acidity shouldn’t be overwhelming.

We all know coffee is bitter, but the bitterness can often be pleasant. The best coffees have a perfect balance of bitterness and sweetness.

Coffees all have a slightly different viscosity. Think of the difference between the feel of butter, juice and tea in your mouth, if consistent; they all have their own merits.

All of the above happens in your mouth, but when you taste something, there’s usually a lot going on behind your nose also.

A high Quality Score will reflect well-developed flavours, which might include peach, chocolate, cherry, blackcurrant and even Earl Grey tea.

Credit: Sarah, Wayne & James @ RoastLab.
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