Multilectual Daily Online Magazine focusing on Architecture, Travel, History, Interior Design, Vintage and Contemporary Fiction, Craft Beer, Coffee, Bungalow Living, San Diego's Historic North Park and Balboa Park by award-winning journalist Tom Shess
Saturday, June 29, 2019
COFFEE BEANS & BEINGS / IN COFFEE PARLANCE WHAT IS A "Q GRADER?"
Q Grader Savannah Phillips of San Diego
GUEST BLOG / By Laurie Britton--San Diego coffee cognoscenti will note Savannah Phillips, who ischarged with the critical task of
quality assurance at Barrio Logan’s Cafe Virtuoso (1616 National Avenue), has
just become a licensed coffee industry “Q Grader”.
Editor’s note: Reposted from San Diego
Beverage Magazine, an all beverage sister publication of West Coaster craft
beer magazine and website: www.westcoastersd.com
For those of
us, who haven’t a clue what a Q Grader does, here’s a quick Q&A article.
exactly is a licensed Q Grader?”
The easiest way to describe it like being a wine sommelier, but for the
specialty coffee industry. Specifically, a Q Grader is an individual that has
received extensive training and has been assessed and awarded a license from
the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) on his or her ability to rate and determine
the quality of specialty-grade Arabica coffee beans through smell and taste.
Breaking it down, we learn
olfactory (smelling) and sensory analysis skills, cupping protocols, how to
triangulate coffees (find the “odd one out” in between three different
coffees), how to match organic acids, and how to identify sample roasts.
It’s also important to note
that Q Graders like myself work only with Arabica beans. As for those trained
in grading Robusta coffee, the term “R Grader” is given.
Q: What the difference is between Arabica and Robusta
Savannah: There are two main
species of coffee that are cultivated. Arabica is the most popular of the two
and accounts for more than 60 percent of coffee production around the globe.
The main reason it’s more popular because it has much more complex, desirable,
and varying flavor profiles. Like wine, hundreds of flavors are possible
ranging from caramel and chocolate to blueberries, stonefruit, and citrus.
These and many more can all be part of a high-quality Arabica coffee flavor
profile depending on the origin and how the coffees are roasted to best bring out
their unique characteristics.
Robusta coffee, while having
more caffeine and less acidity overall, tends to be less desirable because of
the bitter flavor and is much less complex. Robusta is oftentimes used for
instant coffee or as a filler in lower-quality coffee blends.
Q: Why are Q Graders relevant or should be considered
important to the average coffee drinker?
Savannah: That’s a really
great question. First off, times have changed tremendously regarding what the
average coffee drinker now knows about coffee and expects how it should taste.
We’ve come a long way as consumers who not that long ago mostly drank what is
considered to be average “diner coffee”. Today, there is much higher-quality
coffee available (known as specialty grade). Q Graders are in part responsible
for indirectly bringing this extensive knowledge and higher standards to the
average consumer by way of boutique third-wave coffee shops and roasters that
has ultimately shifted the entire global coffee market.
The reason that Q Graders
remain vitally important to coffee drinkers is that they are trained based on
set benchmarks established by the Coffee Quality Institute and by the Specialty
Coffee Association. This allows us to measure coffee’s quality and be able to
speak about it with other coffee professionals around the world in a manner
that is always consistent and understood by everyone. While identifying and
labeling defects and undesirable characteristics are extremely vital, another
important role for Q Graders is the ability to continue to discover the best
coffee producers around the world. That way the new “average Joe” always gets
the best “cup of joe” possible.
I’ve realized coffee for me
has become my obsession. It’s just so damn complex. The minute I think I know
all there is to know, there’s something new that is discovered. This fuels my
desire to constantly keep learning more about coffee as the industry itself
continues to grow and evolve. Another bonus side effect is that for us as a
company it ensures that Cafe Virtuoso is consistently roasting, delivering, and
brewing the best quality organic coffee to all of our customers both on the
retail and wholesale side.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Laurie Britton originally compiled
and authored this Q&A.She is the
founder & CEO of Cafe Virtuoso, an organic brand, roaster and coffee house in
San Diego, California, which she founded in 2008.
Savannah Phillips leads quality assurance efforts at Cafe Virtuoso. Savannah’s most
recent endeavor is founding the San Diego Coffee Training Institute (SDCTI), a
non-profit organization that aims to empower and elevate vulnerable populations
(homeless, foster care youth, previously incarcerated individuals, and others)
to self-sufficiency through the advancement of coffee. These students receive specialized
training in the form of SCA certified classes, workforce skills and job
placement. For more information about SDCTI, visit SDCTI.org
San Diego based Cafe Virtuoso, 1616 National Avenue, Barrio Logan