CQI Volunteers in Action: Sylvia Gutierrez


Being a volunteer for the Coffee Quality Institute isn’t an easy job. It takes knowledge, experience and hard work. One of our volunteers, Sylvia Gutierrez knows all about that. Her latest mission was to the coffee-rich region of China called Yunnan. There, she worked at the new Yunnan Coffee Exchange (YCE) headquarters where she taught lessons, judged the Best of Yunnan contest, and was even asked to give a lecture at the end. Depending on the experience of the volunteer, they can wear many hats, and in this case Sylvia wore many hats indeed.

Hat #1: Teacher

Sylvia’s objectives as a teacher were to demonstrate to YCE how to correctly grade Q coffees using the Q database and to then follow up to provide lessons learned and recommendations for improvement. In addition to teaching classes on Q grading, she assisted in the assessment of YCE’s coffee laboratory in preparation for their upcoming SCAA Lab Certification. There were certainly a few kinks to be smoothed out but overall Sylvia stated, “The coffee laboratory and all the facilities from YCE are impressive and there is a lot of investment in economic and human resources. Many of the employees are Licensed Q graders which support the professionalism of the services.”

Hat #2: Judge

During the Best of Yunnan 2016, Sylvia was asked to be a judge and accepted this honor with great ease. She describes her experience below:

“I’m very grateful for this opportunity for tasting this totally new origin to me. I feel totally honored by this. We tasted 36 samples of different regions of Yunnan and the group of cuppers had people from different parts of the world: China, Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia, Australia, India, United States and Mexico. We tasted a lot of catimors, with good texture sensations. A lot of tasty naturals but some were risky.I think I was able to find a Chinese flavor in some extent that reminded me like dry preserved plums.”

An added benefit of being a judge is that she was able to join in the judge’s activities which included visiting farmers and companies with initiatives such as protecting minorities and empowering women.

Hat #3 Speaker

At the end of her trip, Ted Lingle asked Sylvia to give a brief lecture about Mexico’s experience in developing the specialty coffee market. The success of this lecture led to an interview with local media! In this talk and in her media coverage, she shared the involvement of specialty coffees in the trade, her work in Mexico using the Q Coffee System as a 2-way program, the value of cupping and more.

“I really want to thank the Coffee Quality Institute for this learning opportunity. For me, as a Mexican that works in the coffee sector, this experience gave me a lot of information and many points to compare different ways to produce and consume coffee. This was a life changing trip; it took me away from my comfort zone. I have a new vision of the coffee in my country and I really want to work to achieve the goals that the Chinese people are about to achieve.” - Sylvia Gutierrez

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