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Karen Sauther: Passing the Q Arabica Grader Exam

In the early part of October, Coffee Enterprises sent me to New York to complete Q Arabica Grader certification. I arrived early Wednesday to make it in time for my Q Grader practice cupping. There is something exasperating and exciting about stepping off a plane and heading straight to a cupping room full of strangers. It brings me joy to say I am much more comfortable doing this than I was a few years ago.

Completing my Q Arabica Grader exams was an excellent experience at Irving Farm HQ & the Loft. The coursework, exams and laboratory setups were well organized. The instructor kept everyone on task, and diligently enforced the rules and standards set by CQI. The instructor led discussions following practice sessions were academic, yet open. This contributed to an atmosphere of respect and focus integral to testing. It is an honor to join the ranks of Q Graders around the world, and I am grateful for the existence of such a system of standards and the opportunities it presents throughout the coffee supply chain. The sensory staff at Coffee Enterprises now includes five certified Q Arabica Graders. We, at Coffee Enterprises, recognize the value of having standards to measure against, the means to calibrate, and a universally accepted language to convey results.

Just a block away on W 19th, I stopped off at Gotham Coffee Roasters ,a cozy spot to people watch while enjoying a single origin espresso, pour over or Snake Bite (espresso poured over dark chocolate). The Kenya Kiganjo pour over was very pleasant, exhibiting a vibrant acidity, peach and red berry notes, with a well-balanced juiciness. The coffees at Gotham are roasted by Bespoke Coffee at the Pulley Collective, essentially a haven for anyone wanting to roast small batches without many of the associated headaches of owning a roasting facility, so the roaster can focus on the craft.

Finding myself with a day to spare between Q Grader practice and exam days, I took a short jaunt south to Royal Coffee in South Plainfield, NJ, where I had the opportunity to tour the labs and storage warehouses. Nothing beats that feeling of walking down the aisle of countless coffee bags, so perfectly stacked and aligned, and that overwhelming respect for the immense labor that brought these beans to this point in the supply chain. After cupping some impressive Crown Jewel coffees and meeting several smiling faces, I departed for my temporary home base north of the city. It seems coffee-related trips are always crammed with a lot going on in a short amount of time, and it is the people who make it feel so friendly, less rushed, and that this industry is well worth the professional and personal investment.

For more information about the Q system standards and educational opportunities, visit

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