Bridging the Chemistry Knowledge of Coffee to the Sensory Knowledge of Food
Coffee can be seen in its deconstructed forms: as a fruit, a bean, or a brew—and within each of these categories it can be further simplified. Because of globalization terminology, vocabulary and descriptions became intermingled with marketing, tradition and reality. During the mid-20th century, efforts began to unravel all these concepts into knowledge that can be scientifically verified and transmitted. Those efforts produced a lot of chemical analysis to help understand coffee components and their relationship to humans. Then the big question arose: What set of knowledge can we use to describe this relationship? A big leap was taken to bridge the chemistry knowledge of coffee to the sensory knowledge of food. This resulted in using knowledge from the food industry in looking for a common vocabulary to describe the attributes of coffee.
But, vocabulary and a set of attributes were not enough—we needed a methodology and metrics to evaluate coffee. Nowadays, we do have a few methodologies and standards, but coffee is still seen as different things to different people—it is almost as diverse as cultures
So, where do we go from here?
We in the specialty coffee industry are ready for the next level of knowledge. Although trying to create new knowledge for all the coffee industry may be rather ambitious, finding more scientific knowledge for the specialty coffee is an attainable one. Currently, specialty coffee is studied in four fields: agri-business, agronomy, chemistry and food. Now a group of coffee professionals is leading a new integrated approach by establishing the first SCAA/CQI certified labs in a university environment.
Two universities have agreed to participate in this project: The University of Puerto Rico (Utuado campus) and the Universidade Federal de Lavras (UFLA) in Brazil. The main goal of the project is to create a body of knowledge for a sustainable coffee industry including all its components using an integrated approach from agronomy through processing and food preparation—including blending, roasting and product creation. At the University of Puerto Rico at Utuado—located right in the center of Puerto Rico’s coffee producing region—the project is called Café del CORMO. It was intended to be a lab environment for experimental developments in all fields of coffee to set an environment to foster research and development of ways to improve the quality and consistency of coffee. At UFLA, a similar project was conducted at the Center for Coffee Quality.
These two projects are linked together through the participation of three Q-Graders and coffee experts—Marty Curtis, Bruno Souza and Alfredo Rodriguez—to acquire the knowledge that will allow the delivery of consistent results through the Specialty Coffee Industry while respecting different cultures and their appreciation of coffee. Let coffee be an exciting experience for everyone.
The taste of coffee can be very different, depending the location (altitude and latitude) and the process (natural or washed). The way to determine the quality of the coffee is to evaluate the aspect on the green beans, the aspect on the roasted coffee and, finally, the cupping. In early 2000, a group at the SCAA the Technical Standard was formed with the intention to create a form that could be used worldwide in a coffee evaluation: The SCAA Cupping Protocol. The idea was to create a tool that could be used anywhere in the coffee world with the similar results independent from where the coffee was grown. SCAA created the “SCAA Cupping judge program” to graduate specialized Cupping Judges in the idea at the coffee world needs good cuppers to understand the protocol in order to fairly evaluate the coffee sample.
We continued the project in May and started to talk about a partnership between our group and the university in order to better understand the results of the sensory evaluation with, for example the chemistry tests at the university.
Lavras has 5 Q graders, all those PHD or in the process to be a PHD in coffee.
All those Q graders will be trained to become a Q instructor as we believe that with more instructors we will have more Q graders and in consequence more people talking about the quality in coffee what will drive for the increase of the consume and the more important, understand the reasons the coffee taste different.
We will extend the program to state of Sao Paulo certifying a lab in a nice farm in Parana State one of the oldest region that produce coffee in Brazil. In 1976 frost almost erased the coffee producing in the state, only the far north of the state still produce coffee. It is actually the only sub tropical region in the world that produces coffee, bellow the Capricorn tropic.
The idea is to keep extending the program to the whole country, and to have better answer to all our questions.
PRM Inc, Alfredo Rodriguez CEO
Academia do Café, Bruno Souza CEO
Just Quantify Coffee Academy,
Marty G Curtis CEO