The CQI community is a vast, diverse, and impactful group of individuals – all with a similar goal or interest of improving and identifying coffee quality to the benefit of the livelihood of those directly involved.
In this community chat we had the opportunity to speak with Deandra Gauci, the only Q Arabica Grader in Malta, about her business – COFFEE&strangers.
Deandra’s interest in coffee began at a very young age. Her mom would take her to coffee shops where she became fascinated with the noises coming from the equipment being used. As an adult, she began to work in the hospitality industry, but she always knew that she wanted to open a coffee shop one day. Deandra didn’t have any experience in the coffee industry – so she decided to do her research and learn how everything works. She traveled to Amsterdam and began taking SCA courses. She realized how much there was to learn about coffee. Not only was she eager to learn, but she also wanted to become an instructor so that she can pass her knowledge on to others in Malta.
As her career development continued – Deandra became an instructor through SCA and in 2016 she decided to open her business, COFFEE&strangers. The name was inspired by the many strangers she has met because of coffee, leading to friendships and even some business partnerships. This business means a lot to her. She serves high quality specialty coffee in a café setting, while providing hands-on education in the lab. Initially, she only had plans of opening the educational side of the business, but she decided that having a café would be a great opportunity to teach everyday consumers about different processing methods, origins, and brewing methods.
Deandra noted that the coffee culture in Malta is a bit behind, somewhere in between second and third wave coffee. There are only a few specialty cafes since most people don’t really understand enough about specialty coffee. However, she saw a spike in interest after COVID – since many people were experimenting at home. Locals are starting to ask more questions and compare nuances between cups. They have noticed the difference between the coffees she offers at her café, compared to other non-specialty focused businesses.
About two to three years after opening her business, Deandra came across an intriguing article about Q Graders. She was researching different opportunities and certifications in the industry and saw that Coffee Quality Institute and the Specialty Coffee Association are well-recognized and influential educational organizations in the coffee industry. She decided to sign up for the Q Arabica Grader course in Italy, with Q Instructor Luz Stella Artajo Medina. She admits that she signed up but didn’t know what to expect – she was just eager to continue her education in coffee. Deandra was surrounded by people with years of experience in the coffee industry and she was excited to put her sensory skills to the test. Following some pandemic-related delays, Deandra was finally able to complete her certification and become a certified Q Arabica Grader – the first, and currently the only one in Malta!
The course has helped Deandra adjust the ways she presents and talks about the coffees she offers. She felt like she gained more of the scientific knowledge associated with coffee and she focuses on speaking a common language of coffee when it comes to taste and quality. The Q has also shaped the way she builds her own education modules – focusing on topics that are most relevant and helpful to new learners.
We asked Deandra if she had some advice to share with anyone thinking of taking the Q.
Here are her top pointers:
· Don’t get too caught up on articles or opinions noting that the course is “too tough”. These might deter you from taking a course that is helpful if you work in the coffee industry.
· Cup a lot of coffees! Or try to learn about different coffee origins and processing methods.
· It’s worth taking it, even if you don’t pass.
As her career and business progress, Deandra plans on participating in ZHAW training and taking the Q Robusta course soon. She eventually wants to become a CQI Instructor and bring Q courses to Malta! She invites anyone who visits Malta to come grab a coffee at her café and stop in for a chat.
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