Advancing the quality of Robusta and improving the lives of farmers that rely its cultivation and trade is something that I care deeply about, so it is an honor for me to announce my personal involvement in the first North American R (for Robusta) Grader certification course, which will be held at the Coffee Quality Institute lab in Long Beach this September.

Robusta is not something that is widely discussed in the specialty segment of the coffee industry aside from its occasional ridicule; however, the winds of change are blowing. Global coffee consumption continues to increase and we have all seen in our travels how climate change combined with rapid population growth is making suitable land for farming Arabica coffee increasingly difficult and expensive to find. It is likely that Robusta production will out pace Arabica production in our lifetime.

Thankfully most of the problems associated with Robusta are not the fault of the species at all, but rather are the result of a market-imposed low threshold for quality and its ripple effect at origin that has hindered Robusta from improving — until now. CQI’s R Coffee System is a first step into defining and differentiating Fine Robusta coffees, similar in meaning to what “specialty coffee” has become for Arabica in the past three decades. As is the case with specialty Arabica coffee, cuppers trained to objectively evaluate Robustas and communicate its characteristics with others within the supply chain and to market are of critical importance; we’re going to need a lot of them to start identifying and addressing quality issues on a large scale.

I hope that my announcement below is for the first of what will become many such R Grader certification courses in North America — not to mention others around the globe.

The Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) today announced that planning is underway for the first Q Robusta certification course conducted in North America. The course will be held in CQI’s Long Beach, California teaching laboratory facility this September 24-28 and will be hosted and led by program instructor Andrew Hetzel.

The Q Robusta program is the fine Robusta equivalent of CQI’s established Q Arabica program, a market linkage and quality assurance standard for specialty Arabica coffee. Similar to its sister program’s licensed Q Graders, R Graders are the backbone of the R Coffee(tm) system who independently evaluate and score Robusta coffee samples.

“Robusta has a genetic capacity for adaptation far beyond Arabica, thrives in many origins where Arabica does not and produces a much greater yield of coffee,” commented Hetzel. “Robusta’s inherited reputation for poor quality is understandable, but in no way indicative of its taste potential or the likely significance of its future role in the specialty coffee industry.”

Although it is not a prerequisite to be a certified Q Grader to participate in an R Grader course, similar substantial coffee cupping experience is recommended in order to pass the exam’s series of twenty-two (22) unique sensory and written tests conducted over five
days. Currently licensed Q Graders must take and pass all R Grader tests to be additionally recognized as a licensed R Grader.

Attendance is limited to the first 18 applicants registered. Visit Cafemakers’ Coffee Quality Strategies website to enroll.