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Bridging the Chemistry Knowledge of Coffee to the Sensory Knowledge of Food

by Alfredo Rodriguez, Bruno Souza and Marty Curtis

12_12 26-ACoffee 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.

12_12 26-BPRM Inc, Alfredo Rodriguez CEO

Academia do Café, Bruno Souza CEO

Just Quantify Coffee Academy,
Marty G Curtis CEO

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