We can have different definitions for specialty coffee. By the book, specialty coffees should score at least 80, according to a standard scoring system set by the Specialty Coffee Association. For coffees to attain this score, they should have minimal to zero primary production defects. They should also have distinct to complex flavor notes.
Another more significant definition is that specialty coffees have traceable value chains. There is an unrestricted flow of information among farmers, traders, roasters, café owners, and consumers, so that both the coffee and the lives that it supports continue to improve.