Exploring CQI’s Green Coffee Library for our Q Program

By: Roukiat Delrue, Q Program Director


Because Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) delivers courses all over the world teaching coffee professionals about quality standards and assessment, it’s essential that we have a stockpile of coffees to draw from for these lessons.

This is where our curated Green Coffee Library comes into play. This invaluable tool supplies all the coffees used in our Q Course exercises and tests, including cuppings, triangulations, and sample roast IDs. In addition, the library provides other necessary supplies such as roasted coffee defects, organic acids, and Le Nez du Café kits needed for CQI’s Pre-Q and Q Courses. The library includes coffees for both the arabica and robusta courses.

Here we’ll explore how the library came together, the important partners who maintain it, and much more.

Putting Together and Maintaining the Library

The library was created in partnership with longtime CQI collaborator Mané Alves at Coffee Lab International (CLI) in Vermont; it was originally conceived by Trish Rothgeb, formerly our Q Program Director. Before then, instructors were sourcing their own coffees and supplies for the courses they were teaching. The library is maintained by the team at CLI, who add  a tremendous amount of value from their years of combined experience with coffee quality, roast development, and design of quality-focused training programs. CQI and CLI are constantly collaborating to ensure the Q Program is continually updated to reflect advances in sensory science, is an impactful educational tool, and continues to be relevant for producers and buyers.

With the advent of the Green Coffee Library, we are able to standardize the coffees used in our globally recognized education programs, and to deliver a consistent program. Regardless of where in the world a CQI Q Course occurs, we can ensure the same learning opportunities to everyone. Only Q Instructors and Q Assistant Instructors have access to the Green Coffee Library, and the resources in the library are used only for approved courses.

When Q Instructors are planning a Q Course, they place orders from the Green Coffee Library, and it’s the library’s job to provide the freshest samples possible. All roasting is scheduled to order in accordance with the ship date to arrive to the different locations in the requested timeline. All samples are hand packaged and sealed directly after being roasted. Every batch is tested for roast color, and if any samples are one point in variation from tolerance, they are repurposed and a new sample is roasted until targets are met.

Choosing and maintaining coffees for the library has required significant effort and thought. The Q Program must expose students to the wide range of coffees they will come across in ‘real-life’ cupping scenarios so that they are equipped to evaluate their quality in a calibrated way. As such, the library must include coffees of lower grade (such as past-crop or inferior-quality coffee) as well as those of exceptionally high quality.

However, that is sometimes easier said than done. Sourcing and forecasting are among the most critical challenges of maintaining the library. The entire endeavor is time-critical, and the materials used are sensitive to many factors. For example, the library may purchase a Rwandan coffee to serve as the highest-quality coffee on the table, but then that coffee may develop potato defect. The library managers must be adaptable and inventive—in this case, they would source another high-quality coffee and keep the Rwandan coffee to teach students about potential defects such as potato.

Longtime Partnership

Mané Alves and his CLI colleagues have been integral to the success of the Green Coffee Library. Each member of the team is a licensed Q Grader, with firsthand experience of the students’ perspective and the evolution of the program as a whole, and so they have been uniquely qualified to create and maintain the library.

Mané, the founder of CLI, was the first Q Instructor—a distinction he earned in 2004. Mané is a constant innovator who is always looking for ways to improve and enhance CQI’s Q Program and the Green Coffee Library.

Josh Parker is the dedicated roastmaster for the library. Prior to his work with CLI, he played a lead role in developing roast profiles to support quality training initiatives and new product development. CLI’s Debby Pakbaz and Shannon Cheney have experience with many Q Courses and have seen firsthand the importance of a standardized library for the program. Both Debby and Shannon have a thorough understanding of the nuances of the supply chain and the impact of the common language at each stage.

Ted Lingle, co-founder of the SCAA and CQI senior advisor, says that Mané is a trusted partner who has played an important role in CQI’s success. “I first met Mané in 1992 just after I became executive director for Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCA). At the time he was working for Dan Cox at Coffee Enterprises. What got my attention was his energy and his curiosity about everything coffee,” says Ted. “When he left Coffee Enterprises to establish his own lab, he remained active in SCAA and became a very valuable member of the Technical Standards Committee, bringing objectivity and insights to this hardworking SCAA Committee.”

Ted adds that one of Mané’s most valuable contributions to SCAA and to CQI was serving as one of the first Q Instructors. “This program was initially given in Spanish to a group of Colombian cuppers, and Mané’s language skills proved to be invaluable.” Ted concludes, “While Mané’s contributions to the specialty-coffee industry have never been adequately recognized, those of us who know what he’s done in the course of his coffee career realize his contributions to coffee have been priceless.”

An Invaluable Resource

While the Green Coffee Library has been a large undertaking, it has also been a rewarding endeavor for all parties involved. The Q Program continues to grow, equipping more coffee professionals around the world to speak a common language of taste and strengthen stakeholders in all parts of the coffee value chain. The Green Coffee Library plays a crucial role in enabling the global Q Program to function, and we’re grateful to our partners who have helped make it a success.

Q Processing Library in Colombia

Just as CQI’s Q Program has a coffee library, our Q Processing Program also has its own Green Coffee Library. In this case, it’s not about getting coffees of diverse qualities from various origins. Rather, the goal of this library is to isolate the effect of processing on the cup to give students a feel for the depth and complexity that processing helps create. The way to do this is by keeping all the variables constant, except for the processing protocol.

For the Q Processing coffee library, CQI partnered with the Colombia-based company Café y Procesos, led by our talented Q Processing Instructor Hernando Tapasco. Café y Procesos is working with coffee producer Santiago Londoño at his farm Finca Mallorca (in the municipality of Caicedonia in Valle del Cauca, Colombia) to carry out eight different protocols from the same Caturra variety: two kinds of natural process, two kinds of honey process, three kinds of washed process, and an innovative wet-hulled process. These coffees show to Q Processing students, namely our Level 1 course attendees who get to cup all of them, a full spectrum of coffee processes done on the same raw material. Any difference among the coffees perceived by the students comes from the processing itself, and experiencing this is the best way for students to internalize the effect on processing on coffee flavor.

This library is available to CQI Q Processing instructors worldwide, and can be easily exported out of Colombia as Café y Procesos is a registered export company.

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