Winston Harrison: Certified Q-Grader

If you’re like us, the word “grading” left a bad taste in your mouth. Years of pop quizzes, red-marked papers, and grammar-crazed English teachers have left most of us pretty scarred by the grading process.

But at CREMA, grading just got a whole lot tastier.

In December, our roaster and green buyer Winston Harrison earned his Q Grading certification from the Coffee Quality Institute. As a licensed Q Grader, Winston is qualified to cup and grade coffee based on the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s protocols. Simply put: Winston is now a more knowledgeable and equipped coffee-taster than before.

To participate in the program, Winston spent six days in San Francisco as part of an eight-person training group. The group featured seasoned coffee vets like Winston, as well as coffee-rookies new to the game--the Q Grading program is less a test of what you already know than a launching pad into a brighter, tastier future.

Winston and his classmates spent three rigorous days doing coffee coursework, learning about acid identification; how to note the subtleties of sweet, sour, and salty; and more next-level coffee-nerd-dom than you could fit into a trenta-sized latte.

After the three days of class work, Winston and company were put to the test. It was a test test. Like, they were tested on how they tested the coffee. They were graded on their grades. It was all very tasty and intense.

Winston passed, and with flying colors.

The Coffee Quality Institute (where Winston trained and earned his license) is less trigger-happy with the red pen than your high school English teacher may have been. The Institute exists to teach as many people as possible what good coffee tastes like. The Institute rides the whole “a rising tide lifts all boats” idea regarding specialty coffee. The more people who know what good coffee tastes like, the better off we all are.

“It definitely makes me a better roaster,” Winston said. “And It makes me a better buyer.”

We are proud of Winston, and with him in our boat, it is certainly rising.