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Post-harvest processing is a critical element of coffee production, providing an opportunity for growers to develop and enhance the flavor of their coffees, in turn helping them increase their coffee quality and differentiate their product in the market.
We at Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) have long emphasized the importance of post-harvest processing on coffee quality, and in 2017 we launched the Q Processing Program to help professionalize the process and to certify processing competency among various actors in the supply chain.
Q Processing has been expanding to coffee-producing regions around the world in the years since it launched, and in late 2018, we were excited to bring the first Q Processing Level 2 class to Coffea arabica’s birthplace of Ethiopia! Sponsored by the International Trade Centre, Ethiopian Women in Coffee, and Little City Coffee Roasters, the course took place Nov. 18-23 at the Hambela Processing Facility of Metad PLC, and included nine attendees.
Leading the Level 2 course was Q Processing Instructor Joel Shuler, who founded the Austin, Texas-based Little City Coffee Roasters. While CQI had previously offered the Q Processing Level 1 course in Africa, Joel debuted the field-based Level 2 course, which is geared toward coffee professionals who work regularly with post-harvest processing. “It is humbling to go to arabica coffee's homeland to teach a class on best practices in a place that has produced coffee for thousands of years and continues to produce some of the world's best coffees,” Joel says.
The Q Processing Level 2 course is a six-day program designed for students who have had significant hands-on coffee processing experience through multiple harvests. The course uses lectures, cuppings, and hands-on processing instruction to explore the scientific and theoretical foundations of coffee processing, as well as good practices and quality control in the main processing methods (natural, honey, and washed).
Joel says that one of the key benefits of the Q Processing course is that it helps attendees acquire the skills they need to better recognize and achieve high-quality coffee. “The reality is that value aggregation is still largely not occurring at source, and the communities that have historically produced coffee can benefit from access to information and training on recent developments and technologies,” he says.
The course would not have been possible without the sponsorship of International Trade Centre, Ethiopian Women in Coffee, and Little City Coffee Roasters, as well as the generous hosting by Metad PLC. Sara Yirga, event organizer of Ethiopian Women in Coffee, says the course provided invaluable training that strengthens the country’s coffee sector. “Organizing trainings to close the gap in knowledge and skills is our main focus as EWiC,” she says. “We are honored and so proud to be able to conduct such an important training.”
While two women attended the first Q Processing Level 2 course in Africa, Sara says that the organization hopes to include more women in future Q Processing trainings. “We hope to continue bringing the best of expertise and professional trainings to those who couldn’t make it this time, and to more women in the coffee value chain,” she says.
One of the Q Processing Level 2 attendees, Dehab Mefin of Diamond Enterprise PLC/Dahab Coffee, says the course was an important learning experience. “The Q processing training is the best training I ever had in the coffee sector, especially for me as a producer,” Dehab said. “It is an eye-opener to try out the same coffee with different processes and procedures, enabling significant aspects of the coffee to be noticed.”
With the first Q Processing Level 2 course in Africa now complete, CQI and Joel look forward to continuing to expand the program in Africa and beyond. “Coffee is an incredibly difficult product to produce well, and it is my hope that as the world continues to discover the complexities of specialty coffee, the diverse populations that produce it will gain recognition as craft-beverage producers alongside the likes of Scottish distillers, French winemakers, and American craft brewers,” Joel says. “CQI has developed a training program to help make this a reality, and it's an honor and a privilege for me to be able to participate in it and bring the program to Africa.”
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