They wear neither cape nor mask. They carry no sword nor shield, and certainly have no wings nor tentacles!
Nonetheless, the figure of the Q grader has an almost mythological charm, not to mention marked organoleptic abilities.
Let's discover the mysterious aura that lies behind this coffee “superhero"!
During the second half of last century, there was a period of great economic recovery throughout the West. Industrial growth was significant and this was followed by a demographic increase that demanded more and more raw materials. However, this consumer boom generally ignored the ethical, sustainable or qualitative aspect of production.
It was only in the ‘70s and ‘80s that the idea of quality in a broad sense began to develop in different areas of the food sector, generally in response to large-scale catastrophes and scandals. For example, the methanol scandal in Italy - a toxic substance found in wine around the end of the 1980s - was a shocking revelation, but it did thankfully force us to implement more rigorous procedures in terms of control and analysis.
Out of this period, rose the Coffee Quality Institute in 1996 with the aim of improving the quality of coffee as well as the lives of the people who produce it; providing them with the tools and support necessary to understand coffee quality and its potential.
Assigning a value of quality to raw materials through a numerical judgment is the best way to incentivize producers to favour a more careful cultivation practice. From these founding principles, the standards of the cupping protocol were created, which remain to this day - the essential fulcrum around which the entire week of the Q Arabica course revolves.
This is the path that the professional Q grader takes to be trained and it is thanks to the support of the CQI (and the 6000 Q graders around the world, 40 of which are in Italy) that many producers today have the opportunity to understand, evaluate and improve their product.
The main objective, and first pillar, of the Q program is to create a common vocabulary that can objectively define the quality of a coffee, providing producers with the right tools to gain awareness in what they do. This issue is often overlooked and seldom discussed (it is much more recognized in the countries of origin than in the countries of consumption) but it is vitally important and is the underlying reason for the creation of this training module.
The journey towards qualification consists of 22 very strict tests that range from the visual evaluation of green and roasted coffee, through to blind tasting, to the final examination of general culture.
There are many skills required from our "superheroes" and these are attained through training the Green and Sensory modules of the Specialty Coffee Association.
Once the Q grader qualification has been obtained, it must be updated and renewed every three years to ensure judgment consistency and impartiality. That's right, judgment, because let's not forget that the mission of a Q grader is to give a final evaluation on a scale expressed in hundredths.
In order to reach 80 points out of 100 (necessary for obtaining the "specialty" name), the cup must not have any defects either visually or organoleptically.
Aromatic, tactile and taste aspects are just some of the evaluation criteria that Q Graders must assign objectively. In order to achieve this, the producer must be meticulous at every stage: from cultivation, through harvest, to export.
The Q Grader system is the only universal “language” used by all those involved in the supply chain. That's why knowing this vocabulary is the only way to communicate efficiently, drawing sensible comparisons in a unique and transparent way.
The knowledge and understanding of different cultures, the different approach towards cultivation and thus the production of different types of coffee and preparation methods, allows everyone who takes part to progress through a much broader overview by making the culture of quality available to the entire community.
It is because of this that a Q Grader is much more than a simple "taster" but one who manages and controls an entire process, not only at the plantation but also in their own company. In short, they are a leading figure.
Taking the path toward being a Q Grader therefore offers significant advantages not only to one's personal training and expertise but benefits the entire supply chain through a common language, technical field support, and specific cooperation and sustainable development programs.
Absolutely! There are several among which the SCAA Cupping Handbook, SCAA Brewing Handbook, SCAA Arabica Green Coffee Defect Handbook and SCAA Green Coffee Classification Chart are essential. These can be consulted while doing the olfactory training using the Le Nez Du Café Aroma Kit and the more practical SCAA Cupping Protocol & Cupping Form.
If YOU want to play the role of this "superhero" or have more information about it, please visit the website: www.bloom.coffee www.bloom.coffee