As we approach our July QGrader course (the most hectic 6-day sensory coffee course on earth, for those that don’t’ know!), we check in with instructor Rocky Rhodes to talk about the benefits, and a bit about coffee in general.
BEYOND PERSONAL SATISFACTION OF GETTING A Q-CERTIFICATE, WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH IT?
The Q system is based on the simple premise, “If you can improve the quality of the coffee, you can improve the lives of those that produce the coffee.” This education puts you in the family of people that are trying to improve the world through coffee. You will be called upon to grade samples from time to time that will have a direct impact on the farmer. Either they will find out that they have a more valuable product than they thought or they will learn what went wrong with this lot of coffee so they can make changes and improve their product. A Q-Grader is the conduit of that information. Q-Graders create the vehicle to bring many in the world out of poverty. It is both an honour and an obligation.
WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT BECOMING A Q GRADER?
This may sound silly, but once you pass this course food tastes better! We all have had the ability to smell and taste, but for the first time we become conscious of flavour, texture, movement etc. and now we have the tools to describe it with others. I replaced all of my doubts and fear of sounding foolish with confidence and calm that I knew what I was experiencing. I have become a much better wine taster, cigar taster, and a bit of a ‘foodie’.
In just the coffee world, when you know you are talking to another Q-Grader, there is amazing comfort in knowing you talk the same language. You have mutual credibility and can save time trying to decide what the words ‘heavy’ or ‘bright’ mean. The conversation deepens and becomes more of a bonding.
IN YOUR OPINION WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF THE Q GRADER LICENSE TO COFFEE PROFESSIONALS IN COFFEE CONSUMING COUNTRIES?
The core strength of the Q system is communication. I teach the exact same language in Kenya as I do in Sydney. This allows a more tangible flow of information between buyer and seller of green coffee.
Additionally, a Q-Grader roaster that can have deeper conversations with their customers about taste qualities they desire in their roasted coffees allows a deeper bond to form. Many end user cafes that are looking to their roaster for help are becoming Q graders as well.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE SPECIALTY COFFEE SCENE IN THE US RIGHT NOW?
The third wave of coffee is in full swing in various pockets around the country. Once someone in a geographic area starts producing this superior coffee it gets press. When that happens, others are quick to follow suit.
ARE YOU NOTICING ANY NEW TRENDS?
The hand-pour or “slow bar” is really catching on now. Café owners struggle with the balance of the artisanal cup (slow) and profit that requires turnover (volume). Several companies are developing machines that can consistently deliver quality while freeing up staff to do other things. This seems to be a nice marriage of technology and the barista.
WHAT ARE YOU HOPING TO EXPERIENCE COFFEE-WISE IN AUSTRALIA?
This will be my first trip to your country. I have heard that the coffee scene is really taking off now. What I am hoping to see is passion. Once that ‘bug’ takes hold, people are capable of amazing things. I also want to see how coffee is being treated in restaurants. I have heard it could use a bit of help, but that is true of just about anywhere right?
A couple of spaces remain for the QGrader course and the recalibration text 8th-13th July. Details here.