Specialty Grade is, well... Special.

What is Specialty Grade?

There are all types of words to describe coffee today – gourmet, premium, fine, select... it’s easy to get lost in the alluring adjectives. But coffee that qualifies as “Specialty Grade” - per the standards of the Specialty Coffee Association of America - is something superior.

More than just a fancy word, specialty-grade coffee is unique in terms of its cultivation, harvesting, preparation, and roasting. But, what it really comes down to is selecting the best beans with the least amount of defects in order to deliver the best and highest-quality cup of coffee.

What makes specialty-grade coffee so special?

Coffee with a Story Graph

Only 10% of coffee in the world is considered specialty grade.


A whopping 90% of coffee consumers drink today is commercial grade. Only 10% of coffee found anywhere in the world is considered specialty grade (and is usually reserved for those boutique shops!).

Specialty-grade coffee typically comes from tropical climates.



Higher Altitudes




Balanced Climate


Hand-picked by discerning farmers who are looking for the best, most ripe cherries.


These cherries have the highest sugar content and ultimately the best taste in the cup.


Specialty-grade coffee must score at least an 80 to be certified.


Coffee ratings are calculated based on a set of criteria – balance, body, taste, aroma, and more. Specialty-grade coffee must score at least an 80 to qualify for the designation. In other words, the best! Chick‑fil‑A is one of the first, if not the first, quick-service restaurants with this distinction.

Less than 5

Specialty-grade coffee beans have no more than five full defects and zero primary defects.


Coffee beans are carefully examined to find any defects – blemishes that could compromise the flavor of the coffee. Specialty-grade coffee beans have zero primary defects and no more than five secondary defects. Compare this to some below-standard coffees that can have as many as 86 defects. Oh boy!

To ensure that every cup meets Chick‑fil‑A’s unique profile, THRIVE Farmers™ Coffee growers maintain rigorous quality measures including:


Thrive Quality Measures

Coffee Bean
Hand-picking during the peak of the picking season
Coffee Bean
Investing annually in renovation of older coffee with new coffee plants
Coffee Bean
Maintaining coffee tree health
Coffee Bean
Fertilizing on time
Try it for yourself.
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