The world’s most prestigious certification in the coffee industry has been awarded to Di Bella Procurement Quality Manager, William Sharpe, who has overcome a rigorous roasting of 19 assessments from the Coffee Quality Institute to join the elite ranks of qualified Q Graders.
William’s certification is a highly prized achievement, with an average pass rate of about 25 percent and less than 100 Australians qualified as Q Arabica Graders. The license enables him to professionally advise coffee growers on where their coffee beans sit in the market and how they can improve its quality.
The world recognized certification takes place over six days and puts participants through a series of complex sensory and knowledge testing to score their understanding of coffee aromas, flavors, defects, grading and general knowledge of the entire coffee industry from crop to cup; primarily focusing on a skill commonly known as ‘cupping’.
William said the cupping examination tested his ability to detect flavor, balance, body, sweetness, acidity, aftertaste and uniformity from his sense of smell and taste. “It took months of training my palate to prepare for the exam, but it has also taken more than five years of preparation through examining and mastering the science of coffee production and roasting. I’m ecstatic that the focus and preparation was all worth it,” he said. “Coffee is very similar to wine in that it embodies different notes unique to its origin and processing – there’s a true art and science to coffee appreciation.”
“The Q Grader program pushes your sensory skills to the absolute limit. For example, one assessment asked us to detect levels of sweet, salt and sour in the cup. One cup one might have sweetness level two and sour level three but no salt, cup two might have level three sweet, level three sour and level one salt, which the untrained taster would easily miss. I was then asked to describe what each cup mix and intensities were. ”
“The program also required me to detect the types of acids that are found naturally in coffee and produced in the roasting process which is incredibility hard to distinguish by the everyday coffee consumer. I also had to identify a cup of coffee that had one defective bean out of about 40 beans in the brew,” he added.
Di Bella CEO, Darren Dench, is thrilled with William’s achievement, saying “I couldn’t be happier for Will for passing the Q Grader program as it is not an easy feat. This achievement reflects his knowledge and skillset with coffee, his love of the industry and his character to work hard and perseverance. William’s win is one we can all share, from our farmers and roasters to our valued customers who are all set to benefit from this accomplishment,” he said.
Di Bella’s William Sharpe gives his top tips to becoming a Q Grader:
1. Learn to appreciate different flavours. Let them sit on your tongue. Pay close attention to the varieties of berries, nuts, citruses, wines and spices.
2. Drink lots of coffee – this goes without saying but it’s critical to drink lots of different types of coffee and really analyse them. I find drinking in groups the most beneficial because I can practice telling the group what I taste.
3. Stay Hydrated. It’s good for your palate.
4. Don’t overthink it – if you’re at the point in your career that you’re going for Q Grader certification, and you’ve done the appropriate preparation, then you already know your craft. Don’t be afraid to challenge what you taste and be confident in your conviction.