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Cirad and Craig Holt are the winners of CQI’s 2020 Medal of Merit awards

Medal of Merit Coffee Quality Institute

ALISO VIEJO, CA, U.S. – The Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) recently announced the winners of their annual Medal of Merit awards. The recipients are selected by the CQI Board of Trustees. “Each year we have the opportunity to honor organizations and individuals who have demonstrated commitment to improving farmer livelihoods and increasing coffee quality—core tenets of our mission,” said CQI Board Chair Samantha Veide.

“The selection process enables us to pause and reflect on the good work going on in our industry and the people who make it happen. We’ve ended up with some great recipients this year. We are happy to celebrate CIRAD and Craig Holt as our 2020 winners!”

CIRAD, the French agricultural research and international cooperation organization working for the sustainable development of tropical and Mediterranean regions, was selected as the corporate Medal of Merit winner. CIRAD works broadly in agriculture, but its impact on coffee, in particular, has been meaningful and in line with CQI priorities, and both organizations are building sustainable coffee communities through education and information.

“I had the chance to work with CIRAD in India through the ‘CAFENET’ project,” said Sunalini Menon, CQI board member and founder of Coffeelab in Bangalore, India. “The study involved the effect of shade trees on various cultural practices for coffee on the farm, and especially focused on the effect of shade on the quality of coffee. This evaluation helped in better understanding the cultivation of coffee under shade trees, as also the sensorial attributes of coffee vis-à-vis the type of shade trees under which the coffee plants are cultivated. This study was exemplary, and the results useful to smallholders seeking to improve quality. These are the sorts of studies that complement CQI’s work so well.”

The board selected Craig Holt as the individual Medal of Merit winner. In addition to serving as the former chair of the CQI Board of Trustees, Holt was the founder of Atlas Coffee, and has been a prodigious volunteer in coffee education through Coffee Quality Institute and elsewhere. Bridget Carrington, vice chair of the board, spoke to his qualifications for this award.

“Craig’s dedication to the specialty coffee industry is notable, but his devotion to coffee producers is outstanding. He has volunteered fourteen times as a CQI Coffee Corps volunteer in Africa, Asia and Latin America and has frequently invested heavily in the project coffees by serving as an importer for emerging markets and new producers.”

Carrington expounded. “In fact, on the CQI’s USAID-funded Value Chains for Rural Development project in Myanmar, Craig returned many times both as a volunteer and as a private exporter to help prepare coffees for export and hold their hand as they learned how to export coffee for the specialty market. He was instrumental in making it possible for Myanmar specialty coffee to be exported for the first time ever in 2016. He exhibited the same dedication to the people and coffees of Yemen in 2014 when he was there as a CQI volunteer, finally investing in exporting coffee under very difficult circumstances. Craig also actively supported the initial exports of specialty grade coffee from Yunnan in China, visiting producers to not only talk about quality coffee production but about how to build successful relationships with green coffee buyers in the US. I cannot think of anyone who fulfills and personifies CQI’s guiding principles better than Craig. I completely admire his passion, commitment and energy in this regard.”

The Medal of Merit award ceremony was to have taken place at the annual CQI luncheon in 2020, but that event was cancelled due to concerns connected with the COVID virus. Recognition will be given at the 2021 CQI luncheon in New Orleans.

Coffee Quality Institute is a non-profit organization working internationally to improve the quality of coffee and the lives of people who produce it.