Andrew Hetzel of coffee consultancy CafeMakers has become the first Hawaii resident to be certified as a Q Grader by the Coffee Quality Institute.

In a 5-day series of exams held this January in Waterbury, Vermont, Mr. Hetzel successfully completed 21 sensory skill and coffee knowledge tests necessary to obtain accreditation. Participants traveled from as far as Japan, S. Korea, Thailand and Portugal in pursuit of the certification.

“Most people are surprised to learn that taste is not considered when assigning coffee a grade in Hawaii. The proof of coffee quality is always in the cup, yet that’s the one place that we’re not looking,” observes Hetzel.

To become a Q Grader, applicants must demonstrate proficiency in aroma identification, organic acid identification and green coffee grading, as well as, accurately grade dozens of sample coffees from Brazil, Indonesia, E. Africa, Central America and Colombia.

“I plan to instruct others in Hawaii to taste and rate coffee to internationally accepted standards,” Hetzel continues. “Tasting protocols are necessary so that we can improve the quality of our crops, maintain Hawaii coffee’s good reputation and secure the future of coffee farming in the State.”