All coffee beans can be graded out of 100. This grading process is called “cupping”. And according to the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), specialty coffee is Arabica coffee with a cup score of 80+ points.
The coffee must have been cupped by a certified Q grader. On top of that, too many defects in a sample of the green, unroasted coffee beans will automatically disqualify that coffee from specialty status.
This sets specialty apart from “gourmet” coffee, which has no strict definition. Gourmet coffee could be high-quality coffee, or it could just be marketing.