BOSTON, U.S. – More than 450 coffee professionals gathered during April’s Specialty Coffee Expo for Coffee Quality Institute’s (CQI) annual luncheon, an opportunity to celebrate the importance of coffee quality to a healthy coffee supply chain, update the industry on CQI’s activities, and recognize standouts performers who further CQI’s mission to improve the quality of coffee and the lives of people who produce it.
With coffee producers, roasting companies, non-governmental organizations, and a range of other stakeholders in attendance, the event began with CQI Board Chair Samantha Veide welcoming attendees before introducing Tina Yerkes, CQI’s recently hired CEO, who expressed excitement at collaborating with industry members to spread CQI’s work promoting coffee quality around the world. “I very much look forward to working with each of you as we move forward,” Tina told the crowd.
CQI International Programs Director David Roche then updated attendees about the Institute’s activities over the past year, which have included on-the-ground projects improving coffee quality in Colombia, Myanmar, and elsewhere. David emphasized CQI’s increased collaboration with private-sector companies, and noted that CQI’s Q Processing Program is attracting many of these partners.
“Q Processing is the logical extension of our Q Program, and it’s really taken off,” David said. “Companies want their staff to understand more about the impact of processing on coffee quality and how this can help producers obtain a higher value for their products. Producers, importers, and roasters are really benefiting from the program.”
Following David’s talk, CQI honored its first 2019 Leadership Medal of Merit recipient, Conservation International. The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit environmental organization helps societies responsibly and sustainably care for nature through policy and partnerships with countries, communities, and companies, working with more than 2,000 partners in 30 countries.
CQI recognized Conservation International in large part for its role in convening the Sustainable Coffee Challenge, which has united over 120 coffee-sector partners in a global effort to make coffee the world’s first fully sustainable agricultural project.
Bambi Semroc, Conservation International’s VP Sustainable Markets and Strategy, accepted the honor on behalf of the organization. She described how Conservation International has witnessed the importance of coffee-quality improvement: In its early projects supporting coffee communities, the organization found that specialty buyers want to buy from communities where their impact will be felt, but that the coffee also must be high in quality. Bambi said they’ve found these efforts to be about helping producers “reach the right markets, the appropriate markets for the volume and the quality they’re producing, and improve that quality over time,” she said. “And in this way, we at Conservation International and the farmers we work with have benefited so much from the great work of CQI.”
Bambi also cited two recent reports—from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the World Wildlife Fund—about the pressing effects of climate change on many elements of our planet, and emphasized how coffee production is also being affected. She highlighted the Sustainable Coffee Challenge as uniting the coffee industry around a common goal of making coffee the world’s first sustainable agricultural product, and urged all organizations in attendance to join the Challenge and act now to sustain coffee, sustain farming communities and conserve nature.
César Augusto Echeverry Castaño
Next, CQI recognized its second 2019 Leadership Medal of Merit recipient, César Augusto Echeverry Castaño. César is the director and founder of TECNiCAFÉ, the innovative coffee technology park located in Popayán, Colombia, which is co-owned by CQI. Modeled after the Stanford Research Park, TECNiCAFÉ serves as a technology incubator, experimental farm, and research center, with the principal goal of helping producers increase the value of their coffee.
Taking the stage to accept the award, César thanked the partners that helped bring TECNiCAFÉ to life—including the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation, Supracafe, the government of Cauca, Colombia, and Multiscan Technologies—and stressed the importance of providing the kind of training that takes place at TECNiCAFÉ. “It is incumbent upon us to promote and expand the human talent required in our industry—through training our coffee processors, our coffee graders and of course our roasters and baristas,” César said. “We must improve communication in all directions with a common language and pursuit of quality.”
With a broad cross-section of coffee stakeholders in the audience, César ended his speech by calling on the industry to unite to create inclusive, equitable, and fair business models for producers. He asked the industry “to work together to ensure the well-being, progress and happiness of all players and allies in the coffee industry, starting with the weakest and most vulnerable – our coffee famers,” Cesar said. “If we all work together, we can achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set forth by the United Nations; we can achieve sustainability for both coffee and coffee farming. United, we can do anything.”
The next CQI annual luncheon will take place during the 2020 Specialty Coffee Expo in Portland, Ore., April 23-26.