One of us recently took a week off work to sit the rigorous Q Grader course… and amazingly passed!
Designed by the Coffee Quality Institute, the programme trains coffee professionals to grade green coffee and cup in a standardized way, helping to make comparisons and identify ‘specialty’ coffee.
Over six days we slurped a range of different coffees -- washed, African, naturally-processed and Indonesian -- and conducted a number of different exercises to hone the palate, including one to identify salt, sugar and acidity levels in a brewed cup.
Our small group included a grower from Colombia's Nariño region, employees from two of the country's largest coffee mills and a green coffee exporter. By day three we were all nervous as hell, ahead of the imminent exams (20 in total!). By day six, total exhaustion had set in.
In fact the best word to describe the whole experience is 'intense'. But it was also great fun and hugely informative, thanks to our excellent teacher Jorge Martinez, as well as Jaime Duque, owner of Bogota's Catación Publica café where the course was held.
And we do feel more qualified to talk about aromas, acidity levels and other key coffee descriptors at length...
Hopefully that's good news for you!