What is the Q?
The Coffee Quality Institute is the charitable trust of the Specialty Coffee Association of America that provides coffee quality improvement aid services in coffee producing countries, with 75% of its work funded by government or NGO donors in coffee producing countries.
The Q-Grader program is designed to give a common language that objectively describes the quality of coffee and is used throughout the supply chain from the grower to the consumer. It quantifies coffee attributes and gets all participants to identify taste characteristics in the same way. The true purpose, therefore, is to be able to accurately communicate quality up and down the supply chain and in the process raise the overall supply of quality coffee.
The Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) designed the Q Grader program to create a skilled and credible body of Specialty Coffee cuppers; or Licensed Q-Graders. The role of the individual Licensed Q-Grader is to consistently and accurately assess the quality of coffee and to ensure their palate remains calibrated to the international pool of Licensed Q Graders (under 4,000 Active Licensed Q-Graders in the world) and very limited pool of Licensed Q Instructors (under 40 Licensed Q Instructors in the world).
Who Should Q?
In short, someone who is serious about having their cupping and sensory skills validated by an independent and internationally recognized authority on Specialty Coffee. The Q-Grader Combo Training and Exam is a 6-day course. The first 3 days are brief lectures and 21 reference practical exams. The second 3 days are 22 extensive sensory and general knowledge exams. The Q-Grader Exams are recommended for any coffee professional who routinely evaluates the quality of coffee from the producer farmers, coffee importers and exporters, green buyers, roasters, quality control personnel and baristas. They all can benefit from what they learn about coffee and themselves by taking the Q Grader course series of exams.
Students come from all facets of the coffee supply chain. Farmers and exporters from producing countries get certified because they understand first-hand how quality can affect price. They are committed to learning all they can to not only improve quality but to communicate with importers and roasters in a meaningful way.The importers and roasters are getting certified for the reciprocal reason as farmers and exporters. Roasters will use this skillset to start being more specific on their orders to their importers. A small roaster can describe with confidence their desired flavor characteristics and overall scores. Importers with Q-Graders on staff are apt to see more business because “they speak” the common language with their Q-Grader clients. They generally will need to send out less samples and will be able to write contracts in less time. Retailers and even baristas are seeing the value in getting certified. It makes it easier to talk to your roaster about their next custom espresso or coffee blend and the desired characteristics they are looking for to uniquely position their coffee in an ever increasingly competitive environment.