Joachim, thanks for sharing such an interesting -and challenging question.
In short, yes. Farmers get more money from specialty coffee beans. Now, the second part of your question is incredibly difficult to answer.
By definition, specialty coffee isn’t pricier than regular coffee, but it usually demands a higher price. While some commercial brands may cost around 2 to 3 dollars per pound, many specialty coffee beans charge approximately 20 dollars.
And this isn’t an exact average, by any means. Some premium brands can charge around 50 dollars per 100 grams of coffee, and you can find some unique producers offering a farm-to-cup experience with a price of 800 dollars per 100 grams of coffee.
Looking at such diversity and a wide range of prices, it’s challenging to know how much the cost differs between different types of specialty coffee and regular ones. That said, the price of specialty coffee beans tends to be between 5 to 10 times the price of regular coffee. These prices will vary depending on the country you’re buying, the origin of the coffee beans, processing methods, and the roaster. Additionally, small batches may have a higher price tag if they have special certifications or awards, like Cup of Excellence, for instance.
Regular coffee comes from many farms worldwide, and big brands blend them to create a specific aromatic profile through dark roasts. Why are these differences so huge? Well, obtaining specialty-grade coffee beans takes a lot of work, particularly in quality assurance. Traceability, in this regard, plays a significant role here.
Commercial brands use dark roasts because they help to obtain more reproducible, reliable results, reducing the unique character coming from the unique terroirs and varietals in each batch. Commercial brands also keep quality controls as efficient as possible, so they don’t spend as much time and skilled labor efforts on manual selection.
On the contrary, specialty coffee requires extensive use of skilled pickers, analysts, and tasters to identify defects and reduce their impact on the aromatic profile of each lot.
Specialty coffee roasters use medium and light roasts for these reasons, and many have implemented omniroasts with moderate success. Dark roasts can be found too, but they are still lighter than dark roasts in regular coffee to preserve specialty-grade coffee beans’ unique taste and aroma.
As you can see, specialty coffee produces a pricier product than regular coffee, and farmers get better pay. Their involvement in other steps of the process may also assure them a more generous income. For instance, I know several farmers who own processing stations and have small roasteries.
Such companies, although small, tend to offer exquisite products and are constantly innovating. Because of this, they charge a lot higher prices than most brands. Nobody expects to pay the same for a regular product and a luxurious one, for sure. Now, in my opinion, they deserve it.
And in comparison, even a 20 dollars pound of coffee serves more than 20 cups. At less than 1 dollar per serving is by far the most affordable luxury we can have!