Since its inception in 1996, the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) has been developing programs to meet the needs of an evolving coffee market, while also ensuring that better tasting cups are brought to the thirsty consumer.
One of CQI’s crucial contributors is the Q Coffee System. CQI states that “Our Q Coffee System has continued to evolve over the years, as we adapt to challenges facing the industry and find innovative ways to expand our common language for quality.
The Q Coffee System for Arabica has single-handedly changed the way buyers communicate with sellers. It is now integrated into the majority of specialty coffee businesses, where most quality control teams have at least one Q Arabica Grader on staff.
When CQI began work on a Robusta program over five years ago, it was met with criticism ans skepticism from the majority of the industry. However, the international standards have been adopted worldwide and continue to be used to expand fine Robusta into the marketplace, creating both a better tasting cup and higher prices for all involved.”
The Ultimate Coffee Guide talks to CQI Q Director Roukiat Delrue about the importance of the Q Coffee System for the coffee sector.
HOW DOES THE Q SYSTEM BENEFIT THE COFFEE INDUSTRY?
“The Q Coffee System is a very complex and complete system. The system relies on Q graders, trained experts in assessing coffee quality, to objectively assess coded samples of which they have no knowledge of, resulting in either a certification for the coffee—Q Coffee if it meets the requirements, or a Technical Report which can give feedback to coffee producers on how to improve quality. As indicated, the Q Grader Program is only one part of this; many people throughout the coffee chain have taken the exam around the world—from coffee producers, baristas, to enthusiastic consumers.”
HOW DOES ONE PREPARE FOR THE Q GRADER EXAM?
“The first and foremost element is cupping, but not just cupping; cupping while using and fully understanding the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) Cupping Form. There are also sensory, aromatic, acid and roast level exams, so there are also lots of possible preparations.”
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN Q ARABICA AND Q ROBUSTA GRADERS?
“The main difference is their focus. As the name indicates, Q Arabica focuses on Arabica coffees and Q Robusta on Robusta. It will all depend on where the candidate lives and what his area of work or production or market is. Anyone can benefit from wither. In terms of coffee professionals, they can absolutely benefit from taking both, to better understand the whole supply chain, and not just one part of it.”
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE IN-COUNTRY PARTNER (ICP) IN FACILITATING Q GRADING?
“The role of the ICP is to be the entity that assures that the coffee evaluation is neutral ad objective. They will code the samples and they will call three different Q Graders, which have no ownership or interest in the coffee. Everyone will perform the evaluation without knowing anything about the coffee. The ICP, along with CQI, will review the evaluations and enter them into the system.”
WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF CQI’S NEW PROGRAM, Q PROCESSING, FOR THE COFFEE SECTOR?
“Q Processing is a truly great program to tie the cupping and quality evaluation portion to the actual processing that may have impacted it.
It comes in different levels: the first one is a two-day course and can be taught in consuming countries. It’s a great opportunity to expand the knowledge of coffee buyers!
The second one is a professional level and can only be taught in coffee producing countries. It is a very hands-on course, along with deep knowledge of all aspects of processing.”
AIMING FOR QUALITY
As more Filipinos are getting their Q certifications, there is an optimistic outlook o the direction for Philippine quality coffee. The Q Coffee System has proven that it is able to go beyond just training cuppers and certifying coffee. Together with its ICP, PCBI, CQI will continue to positively impact the local coffee scene.
As CQI has stated, ‘The program has lasting and far-reaching impacts for producing countries. Eventually, and regardless of the form it takes, it leads to better tasting coffee.”
For those interested to take the Q Grader Program, CQI offers courses around the world. Check out the website in the Q program section, under Upcoming Courses.