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By: Lisa Conway, CQI Director of Operations
Earlier this month, thousands of coffee professionals from around the world gathered in Berlin for World of Coffee, the Specialty Coffee Association’s annual European show and the largest coffee event in the continent.
A team of us from CQI were excited to travel to the event with something new to share with our European colleagues: CQI released our Fine Robusta Standards and Protocols at World of Coffee to an eager audience of traders, roasters, and Robustaphiles (people who like robusta). The new standards and protocols document is the result of collaborative work with renowned robusta experts and modeled upon practices used for differentiation of arabica coffee by the SCA. These standards and protocols are now published in digital and printed formats and available directly through CQI.
We were very happy and excited to see the amount of interest in Fine Robusta at World of Coffee. The event marked the first time CQI had ever sold a product at an event, and we sold out of our hard copies of the Fine Robusta Standards and Protocols and the “I Tasted Robusta and I Liked It” T-shirt by early Saturday morning of the show.
The event was a great place for CQI to discuss our range of Q Program offerings—including robusta and beyond—with coffee professionals. We were able to meet and visit with many global supporters of the Q Program, and discover how people and companies are dedicated to quality, building relationships between producers and the consumer, and meeting sustainability goals.
At the event, we heard repeatedly from people how important Q Grader certification is to them both on an individual level and for their business, and how hard many of them have worked to achieve it, especially for Q Robusta. CQI currently has 420 Q Arabica Graders and 34 Q Robusta Graders in Europe, as well as six Europe-based Q Instructors. We also have 15 coffee lab partners who host our Q Grader and Q Processing courses in Europe.
Shirin Moayyad, a coffee expert based in Switzerland, has firsthand experience with Fine Robusta as well as CQI’s Q Robusta Grader credential. She was just one person at World of Coffee who spoke to me about the importance of Q Robusta Grader certification. “I personally think it’s a must for anyone who claims to be a coffee connoisseur in today's landscape,” she says.
“In Europe,” continues Shirin, “given our relative proximity to many robusta-producing countries and the history and tradition of its use in our blends—in fact even the preference for it in some regions—it is particularly incumbent on us in the industry to understand what makes a good robusta and what makes a bad robusta. We need to suspend our disbelief, put our judgment on hold, and recognize that robusta can be outstanding as well. Not the same, but measured by their own standards, excellent. And CQI’s Q Robusta course—as grueling and difficult as it is—taught me that appreciation.”
Additionally, Shirin shared with me an observation from coffee writer Kenneth Davids that Shirin says really resonated with her and helped put robusta in context in the coffee sphere: “Even the cleanest robusta arguably does not present the complexity and range of sensory expression we associate with the very best arabicas. But then again, the overwhelming majority of arabicas don't present the complexity and range of sensory expression we associate with the very best arabicas either.”
Sunalini Menon (Tata Coffee Limited, India) is a long-time technical contributor to CQI’s Q Robusta Program. At World of Coffee she was able to see the fruits of her labor in CQI’s published Fine Robusta Standards and Protocols booklet.
Francesco Sanapo sharing his passion for Q Processing in Europe at our private event. "If you ask me about the main steps that influence the cup profile in origin, I would say, undoubtedly, the post-harvest technologies. Now we all together have the opportunity to understand many concepts in-depth just following the Q Processing Program. Processing is one of the steps that most distinguishes the flavors of the coffees; processing is the new frontier for the producer, and when it's made with knowledge, it can help to increase the score and the value of coffee."
Tim Heinze (Yunnan Coffee Traders and Q Instructor) spoke at CQI’s World of Coffee reception about his experience with our Q Processing Program in China and the Democratic Republic of the Congo: “It is positively impacting producers by teaching good practices for coffee processing while reducing the risk associated with experimentation and trying to meet specialty roasters' ever-changing demands.”
Roukiat Delrue (CQI Q Program Director), Gloria Pedroza (NKG Quality Services and Q Instructor, Switzerland), and Francesco Sanapo (Ditta Artigianale, café and coffee academy owner, Italy) talk robusta and how CQI’s education program benefits European coffee professionals.
See you at next year’s World of Coffee in Warsaw, Poland!
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