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Now or Never: Special Reserve Coffees
by Kenneth Davids
Special seasonal offerings of small lots of exceptional coffees are a sure sign of coffee's coming of age as true specialty beverage. These coffees, often described using wine-influenced language like "Special Reserve," "Limited Edition," "Roastmaster's Reserve" and so on, represent coffee from a single crop and single place, often a single hillside, and are sold not on the basis of consistency or brand, but as an opportunity to experience the flavor associated with a unique moment in time and space and the dedication of a single farmer or group of farmers.
Of course the nature and volume of these special offerings differs by the size and ambitions of the coffee roasting company. The enormous volumes Starbucks needs even for its limited edition "Black Apron" coffees may involve purchases from entire regions rather than from single small farms, and are necessarily more generic than special reserve offerings from smaller companies.
Some companies - Portland's Stumptown Coffee and Chicago's Intelligentsia, for example, offer several limited edition coffees on a continuous rotating basis. Other companies may offer anywhere from one to a handful at any given time. Some very small companies - PT's Coffee, for example - base their entire business on limited edition coffees.
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