Beekeeping (or apiculture) is the maintenance of bee colonies, commonly in man-made hives, by humans. Most such bees are honey bees in the genus Apis, but other honey-producing bees such as Melipona stingless bees are also kept. A beekeeper (or apiarist) keeps bees in order to collect their honey and other products that the hive produce (including beeswax, propolis, flower pollen, bee pollen, and royal jelly), to pollinate crops, or to produce bees for sale to other beekeepers. A location where bees are kept is called an apiary or "bee farm".
What does it mean to be a Q grader?
The Q grader program was established in 2004 as a way to objectively examine coffees and score them based on their many attributes and therefore overall quality – it is in fact the only certification in the industry that is based on quality.
The aim behind the program is to create an ‘army’ of cuppers all over the world who all speak the same language when it comes to coffee. The system quantifies taste attributes such as acidity, body, flavour, aftertaste, uniformity, balance, sweetness etc. to ensure all participants are identifying flavour characteristics in the same way. By using the Q system, coffee buyers can essentially communicate quality right the way through the coffee supply chain from the farmer to the exporter to the roaster. By applying a score to a coffee, everyone involved in the process understands the quality of that coffee.
In simple terms, a Q grader is qualified to give a coffee an SCAA score out of 100 and can therefore classify it as being speciality or non-speciality. The program itself is run completely blind and independently which means cuppers learn to evaluate the coffee without the influence of external factors such as price/farm/availability. This means the assessment is solely based on the quality of the coffee, allowing the whole supply chain to look at the coffee objectively.
It requires a vast amount of training and experience to be able to consistently score coffees in line with other Q graders and to become qualified, it is essential that you can identify defects and attributes in coffees consistently. It is also vital that you have cupped enough coffees to have built up a ‘sensory memory’ in order to compare against coffees you might have cupped previously. Rob Stephen (a Q instructor and one of the founders of the program) believes that people looking to take the Q grader exam should be those whose job it is to make important decisions about coffee quality. There are currently around 3800 Q Graders in the world at the moment with efforts to expand the program being focused on producing countries. Farmers and exporters value the program as it allows them to understand how they can improve the quality of their coffees in order to attract higher prices from the buyer. The Q program also provides them with a meaningful way of communicating with importers and roasters.