The taste is all in the cupping


COFFEE is one of the most widely consumed beverages around the world and is a central and popular part of modern culture. An estimated 3.5 billion cups of coffee are consumed worldwide every day.
If we ask each one of these millions of coffee drinkers what makes a great cup of coffee, you will get a million different answers. Does the aroma in the coffee matter? Is it supposed to taste bitter? What separates good coffee from bad coffee? Is it the source of the beans? The roasting technique used? The grind? Extraction methods?
These many questions are generally the variables considered by fine coffee establishments which 12 Papua New Guineans went through in the first-ever in-country Q-graders’ training and examination in Eastern Highlands recently.
The six-day training event was organised by Coffee Industry Corporation and Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (Phama) at the research and growers’ services division at the beautiful Aiyura Valley on May 22-27.
The good news for the coffee industry is that of the class of 12, four passed and have joined the exclusive list of internationally recognised coffee graders. Those who passed were Marty-Linda Hasu, Stilla Frisu and Enos Dum, of CIC, and Mark Munnul, of Kosem Coffee Ltd, Jiwaka.
“It was tough and mind-boggling to remain calm and trust our instincts to identify various taste attributes or flavour in the different coffee origins,” says Munnul, of Kosem Coffee, in Banz. His processing and exporting firm is partnering CIC’s Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (PPAP) – a government organisation that deals with smallholder cocoa and coffee producers – to rehabilitate coffee gardens in Jiwaka.
Lovelynn Pewi Kunoko, of Niugini Coffee/NGIP Agmark, is the first certified Q-grader after training in the Philippines last year.  PNG now has five certified Q-graders who can assess the quality and grade of coffee.
Q-grader is a term associated with the speciality coffee industry. They examine coffees and score them based on their attributes and overall quality. It is the only certification system in the industry that is based on quality.
The system quantifies taste attributes in a coffee cup such as acidity, body, flavour, aftertaste, uniformity, balance, sweetness, etc, to ensure all the participants are identifying flavour characteristics in the same way.
The participants set 21 exams in two days and tasted over 500 cups per student, excluding the retakes. It was a hectic week for the class of 12, covering general knowledge, sensory skills, organic acids, green grading, roast identification, olfactory matching and blind testing, cupping skills and triangulation.
Says Esther Vialeahy, of Colbran Coffeelands, Aiyura Valley: “I’ve done some cupping for my establishment but this is really interesting, though tough, but I like it. What I learned here will help me to assess better coffee in cup and grade.”
Vialeahy just fell short of passing but is proud to have been part of the new experience. She and the others who failed have the opportunity to sit the exams again within 18 months.
“The purpose of this training is for the participants to confidently identify speciality coffees so better prices can be negotiated for  the farmers and for the coffee organisations,” says Rose Romalus, CIC’s senior quality control officer.
The training of Q-graders compliments CIC’s efforts to beef up cupping services for the growers and help the proposed grading system that is awaiting gazettal. The gazettal will be facilitated by the National Institute of Standards and Industrial Technology PNG.
Says project manager Potaisa Hombunaka: “At present processors and exporters buy parchment mainly at Y-grade price. The availability of certified Q-graders and facilities will help growers get independent quality assessment, hence a fair price for their coffee based on cup quality.”
Steven Tumae, the general manager for CIC’s industry operations division, said the qualification acquired at the training was an accredited certification by the United States-based Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) for arabica cuppers of speciality coffee.
“Hence the course was sanctioned by CQI following an application by CIC and conducted by a certified instructor from Indonesia, Adi Taroepratjeka, who is Q-robusta, Q-arabica and Q-instructor (qualified),” says Tumae.
“Great coffee doesn’t just happen. A top-quality roaster or cafe takes pride in the processes involved well before the finished brew touches the customer’s lips. Sourcing, roasting, and extracting all come into play on this journey that’s called ‘tree-to-cup’. This policy is of significant importance to sourcing the speciality coffee market for our coffee.”
CIC’s chief executive, Charles Dambui, commended the support of the World Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development through PPAP to fund the preparatory training in Goroka, and Phama for funding the actual training and examinations at Aiyura Valley.
PPAP is a CIC project through the Department of Agriculture which manages the coffee rehabilitation programme. The programme now involves 44 partnerships covering 10 coffee-growing provinces. The total number of households covered so far is 35,161.
The Phama programme is an Australian government initiative co-funded by the New Zealand government.  It is designed to help Pacific Islands countries manage and utilise opportunities to export primary products including fish and forestry products. Australia and New Zealand are markets of major importance, along with those beyond the Pacific.
The core countries assisted through Phama are Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and PNG.
Phama also provides assistance to other Pacific Islands countries through the secretariat of the Pacific Community’s land resources division.

  • Leo Wafiwa is the information and communications officer for Coffee Industry Corporation.

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