A Licensed Q grader is the name of someone who has been certified by the Coffee Quality Institute, based in Long Beach, CA. These cuppers must pass a rigorous 3 day exam, made up of 22 sections on coffee related subjects like green coffee grading, roast color identification, coffee cupping, sensory skills and sensory triangulation.
If that sounds confusing, just know this: A Q grader is someone really good at tasting, cupping and evaluating coffee. There are now over 1,000 Licensed Q Graders in the world and 9 of them work for GMCR. (Including me!) One of the consequences of standardizing coffee evaluation has been that the playing field between consuming countries and origin is a lot more level than it has ever been. Farmers and cooperatives are able to better evaluate the quality of their coffee and knowing the value of one’s product is crucial in any marketplace.
Not only have we been busy getting our staff certified as Licensed Q Graders, we have been actively promoting the program in our own supply chain. In particular, we help fund some of the Q Grader classes in a large portion of our Fair Trade Organic supply chain in Peru. We’re already getting better coffee from Peru and that means we’re able to buy more coffee in Peru.
If you’d like to see a short video of the most recent Q Grader Certification class we held here in Waterbury, Vermont, go here: All of the “students” in the video are employees and it was filmed and photographed in our brand new coffee lab.