Specialty Coffee: Managing Quality by Thomas Oberthür, Peter Läderach, H.A. Jürgen Pohlan, Pih Lee Tan, James H. Cock

Helmut Eißner


Seven years after the 1st edition of “Specialty Coffee: Managing Quality” a fully revised 2nd edition is on the market - urgently expected and highly welcomed. Manifold and complex are the changes, both in conventional and specialty coffee cultivation, processing and trading since then. Despite all progress, there are two major challenges and risks to face: the climate change and the no-cost-cover-prices of coffee. This 2nd edition analyses the whole food chain from the coffee tree to the cup according to this risks, including new scientific, technological and social knowledge about it. Fortunately, the experienced team of five editors could orchestrate successfully the contributions of 43 experts in different scientific fields. The results are presented in three main parts: 1 - Background and Concepts, 2 - Crop Management and 3 – Value Chain Management.


The background and concepts for specialty coffee are subject in part one of the book. The first chapter outlines the developments in coffee consumption and demand, including new markets and the role of specialty coffee. In chapter two, the influence of geographical parameters, e.g. soil, altitude and temperature on coffee growing and quality coffee is described. These geographical analyses are generating high data amounts and require new information technologies to identify sites with capacity of superior coffee quality. The comparison of different coffee growing regions, e.g. Ethiopia and Costa Rica, known from the 1st edition, is now more detailed and allows to identify areas with similar conditions. Chapter 3 deals with the adoption of coffee growing to climate change and was extensively revised. While in the 1st Ed. the effect of climate change in Mesoamerica on coffee was analysed only, now information is given for important coffee growing regions worldwide, e.g. East Africa, China; Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand. It needs to be mentioned, that despite the sophisticated processing of unimaginable data volumes, all results for each region are free available. In chapter 4 a concept is developed, how farmers can interchange and compare their knowledge with this geographical data sets and capture own geo-referenced data. The 2012 founded World Coffee Research (WCR) organisation should take an active part in this process.


In part two, the crop management of specialty coffee is analysed in seven chapters. All important components are involved, from coffee physiology, breeding, plant nutrition, field management practices until the impact of pests and diseases. Particular emphasis is given to the post-harvest processing and – new - the roasting procedures. Also the breeding chapter 3 is fully revised and updated. The genome of both, C. arabica and C. canephora is now available and permits new breeding methods. Selection targets (Limonene) for quality has been detected and public-private breeding networks can be expected. The plant nutrition chapter 4 is based on the 4R-principle: Right source, rate, time and place. Special consideration is given how to close the yield gap between different farms in a region. In the last two chapters the complex post-harvesting processing is analysed and recommendations for better cup quality are given.


The third part of the book deals with the value chain management in six chapters. Prerequisites of sustainable business models for coffee, such as direct trading and vertical integration with roasters are outlined as well as business models for quality coffee, being de-commodification the first step to go. Finally, the book is completed by a comprehensive case study about specialty coffee in India.


This 2nd edition has developed now to a standard for managing specialty coffee, leaving the regional level to a global approach. The concepts and principles in this book developed should be considered by conventional coffee growers too, because climate change and price vulnerability matter for most coffee growers worldwide.

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