Building Capacity – For Farmers and for CQI

When Falcon Coffees announced its support of Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) to its customers they asked (and answered) the following question: “Can you imagine the specialty coffee industry without the Q?  … We can’t either”.

For more than twenty years CQI has developed the international standardized language of coffee quality (Q Program), trained thousands of sensory evaluators to help the industry define specialty grade coffee and to qualify producers for greater compensation. Farmers’ livelihoods are materially impacted when the quality of the coffee they produce improves.

In 2017, CQI added a certified training program on coffee processing, focusing on the effects of post-harvest processes that impact quality. Beyond those certification-based activities, CQI has pursued on-the-ground projects that include processing education, capacity building and market connections. CQI has positively impacted the coffee industry but has the potential and the intention to grow, but to do more, greater support from the coffee industry is needed.

“Coffee Quality Institute has been operating more like a service provider to our partners, and not really focusing on the fact that we are a nonprofit organization formed as an education trust,” said Tina Yerkes PhD, CEO of Coffee Quality Institute. “CQI was incorporated as a nonprofit but has not functioned to its full capacity in soliciting and receiving charitable donations from within and outside the coffee industry.  Our future growth and impact will be greatly enhanced by adding this source of revenue so that we can invest in the areas that will make the most impact. This year we are working on our nonprofit fundraising in a new and exciting way anticipating significant change.”

Falcon Coffees offers up a new sustaining model.

“We heard that Coffee Quality Institute needed ongoing support,” offered Konrad Brits, founder and CEO of Falcon Coffees. “We view the work that CQI and other nonprofits perform as vital to the health and future of our industry and wanted to explore a more collaborative model than a one-time donation. Offering a steady revenue stream to CQI for their origin programs allows Falcon to enhance its impact at origin through collaboration, one of our key principals.”

“We might survive without fundraising, but we will not thrive,” Yerkes added. “We need to engage the industry at large because supporting producers with training and education is important to everyone in coffee. Producers use all the tools at their disposal to improve their crop, and CQI is developing new ways to be a collaborator in improving the position of coffee producers. It gives them better options, and that is good for the entire value chain.”


Konrad Brits started Falcon Coffees with the purpose of building a for-profit business with a social impact agenda.

“To build a truly sustainable future requires a great deal of investment across a broad spectrum of activities and disciplines. The non-profit community performs key roles in research, training and advocacy, benefitting the entire industry. If we in the for-profit sector improve support for the non-profit community, we drive impact at a scale beyond anything the private sector can achieve alone. Think of what CQI, SCA, World Coffee Research and others have done for the specialty coffee industry in the last twenty to thirty years.

"Society recognizes that education is the foundation to addressing inequality and building a better future through improved economic outcomes. Coffee is no different. Education is key to our future prosperity. Coffee Quality Institute is an educational organization focused exclusively on coffee.  They not only help create the tools needed to identify specialty coffee, which empowers producers to obtain better compensation, but they also work with producers to remedy self-identified gaps in productivity, business practices and market connections through education and training. Falcon recognizes these training needs as ongoing. That is why we structured our support as a long-term, portion-of-proceeds-per-bag program. We’re looking for CQI to expand their footprint and increase our collective impact through education and training.”

It takes support like that of Falcon Coffees to make real change in what CQI can do.

“The relationship we have with Falcon is giving CQI the option to lead, and to answer the demand that we are getting from producers,” Yerkes stated. “The more partnerships we develop with those who understand how important our mission is to addressing inequities in coffee production the further we can progress to address them. We can plan and strategize knowing we are working together to combine our capacity for on-the-ground work with ongoing support. That really changes everything.”