Making Coffee with Lucia Solis

#6: The Sommelier of Coffee?

November 11, 2019 Lucia Season 1 Episode 6
Making Coffee with Lucia Solis
#6: The Sommelier of Coffee?
Show Notes

You heard my experience getting my Q grader license on last weeks episode. Today’s podcast is a continuation of the Q grader discussion but focusing on its role with coffee producers.

I mentioned that it’s tempting to use the wine Sommelier certification as a shorthand to describe the Q grader license because the Sommelier’s has been around much longer and its a more familiar term than Q grader. 

I’ve been guilty of using this shorthand in the past but its both lazy and inaccurate. I feel it's important to untangle these two tests because if we keep repeating it, eventually we will start to believe it. However tempting it is, these two certifications are different in a fundamental way. The sommelier certification is predominantly used by the service industry (restaurants, etc) and the Q grader license is used as a means of quality control for exporters, importers and roasters.

The sommelier certification is consumer facing, it is not a means to improve wine production quality. There is very little overlap between a winemaker's world and a sommelier's world.

In contrast the Q grader license has a significant overlap in the production and consumer worlds. I value the Q grader license and I'm glad to have a standardized method of coffee evaluation but there is one often overlooked detail that has nagged at me.

Coffee producers are rarely Q graders, they are not the tasting experts, the buyers are. This means that everyone else in the value chain is more of an expert in tasting coffee than the people responsible for producing coffee.

Most of us haven’t considered what it means when the consumer is more sophisticated than the producer. What kind of power dynamic is created when a specialty coffee buyer is more sophisticated than the person who is deciding the flavor profile of the coffee?

I'm also curious about the system of cupping scores perpetuated with the Q grader system.

Join me in today's episode as I imagine a world without coffee scores.