Over four weeks in late 2017, I had the pleasure of witnessing the success of several dedicated coffee professionals in the Sustainable Harvest® supply chain who passed the rigorous exams to earn their Q Arabica Grader certification, an honor given to distinguished professionals who demonstrate the highest skills in coffee evaluation. The event was made possible thanks to Sustainable Harvest®'s partnership with Beneficio Santa Rosa, an MVP (Most Valuable Producer) organization that provided the venue for the multi-day test, while Sustainable Harvest® managed the logistics of bringing together cuppers and an instructor for this important event.
The MVPs: On the path to Q Grader graduates
Our story begins in Palacagüina, Nicaragua, in November, when Sustainable Harvest® hosted our MVP Central America Summit. This was a special event for those in our MVP program, which recognizes the top producers in our supply chain and offers them professional development opportunities through training and market access to coffee buyers. An important component of the MVP Central America Summit was a Q Arabica Grader prep course, where we provided an overview of the skills needed to pass the tests required to obtain certification. These covered everything from roast identification to a wide array of cupping and sensory skills, and the MVPs sharpened their cupping abilities in the process.
The MVP Central America Summit 2017
As part of supporting our MVPs’ professional development, we offer them a 75 percent discount on the cost of the Q Arabica Grader exams if any of them want to build on their training by trying to obtain the certification. To our pleasure, 16 members of our supply accepted an offer to take the Q Arabica test through the MVP program, and gathered just weeks later at Beneficio Santa Rosa in Honduras for a six-day program of training and testing. Two cuppers from outside of our supply chain also took advantage of the event, making for 18 total cuppers in the class.
A test of the senses
The week started with three days of training from CQI-certified Q Instructor Jorge Martinez covering triangulations, cupping tests, sensory evaluations, and much more. Jorge is an impressive teacher, analyzing the performance of each student in great detail and providing important feedback to help them improve. Having a passionate, caring instructor is extremely helpful for aspiring Q Graders, so we were very happy to have Jorge on hand.
Jorge Martinez instructing the group
One of the reasons that Q Grader Arabica certification is so respected in our industry is that it is truly tough to obtain it—the tests are notoriously difficult to pass, and only the most elite cuppers earn their certification. When it came time for the cuppers from our supply chain to take the official Q Grader Arabica exams over three days, we were delighted with the results: four passed!
The four newly accredited Q Graders are Alex Enrique Mejia Hernandez of Beneficio Santa Rosa; Fatima Lopez Rodriguez of Beneficio Prodecoop in Nicaragua; Norma Mileybi Lara of Cocafelol in Honduras; and Jose Daniel Palacio of Colombia’s Cooagronevada.Local news coverage of the event
Afterward, those who passed expressed pride and exhilaration at their impressive feat. Alex from Beneficio Santa Rosa, for example, shared these thoughts: “This year I have fulfilled one of my biggest dreams in becoming a Certified Q Grader. It happened thanks to the alliance between Beneficio Santa Rosa and Sustainable Harvest®. It was a huge learning experience for me. I am thankful to God, my family, and all my colleagues for the help they provided.”
We are so proud of everyone who took part in the Q Grader trainings and exams in Honduras and put their impressive skills to the test. Seeing these hard-working, dedicated people advance as coffee professionals is very meaningful to all of us at Sustainable Harvest®, and has a tangible impact on the quality control of our supply chain. Congrats to this new class of Relationship Coffee Q Graders!