Claudia Quagan Barrett ’91, owner of CQ Coffee Roasters in Bedford, N.H., recently attained the prestigious Specialty Coffee Q Grader Certification following a rigorous three-day exam. Barrett, who has worked in specialty coffee since 1994, opened CQ Coffee Roasters in 2012 after an inspiring visit to the Finger Lakes region.
“As I discussed the characteristics of the wines with the vintners, the term, ‘Terroir’ kept coming up,” Barrett explains. “‘Terroir’ refers to the dynamic combination of soil, climate, and altitude and how these three elements interact to play a role in the development of the wine grape or the coffee bean.”
The certification exam, which covers coffee-related subjects such as green grading, roast identification, coffee cupping and sensory skills, is used to determine if applicants are able independently evaluate coffee crops and determine if they meet the characteristics necessary to certify them as Specialty Coffee. The Coffee Quality Institute is the accrediting body for Q graders. Currently, there are only about 300 certified Q graders in the United States out of about 3,000 worldwide.
Similar to wine, coffee acquires its aromas and flavors from the environment in which it was grown. Thus, CQ Roasters has devoted itself to caring for the distinctive high quality of the coffee it sells. The company has developed numerous working partnerships in sourcing its product in order to offer absolute transparency on each coffee sold.
“The truth is that many people have never really tasted true specialty coffee that has not been burned to a crisp by a mass production roaster,” Barrett says. “People are amazed when they try a specialty grade coffee that has been properly roasted and they taste flavors they never expected.”
On her company website she credits her liberal arts education at William Smith as a tool she uses and relies on as much as her roaster.
“William Smith taught me how to think critically; my liberal arts degree is not one thing- it is many things,” says Barrett, who majored in English. “It is dynamic and teaches me to see things in multiple dimensions rather than in a linear fashion. We do a lot of meaningful, direct trade work at the coffee farm level. We believe in our farmers. HWS taught me how to attach my work to a greater meaning and this is the one of the cornerstones of CQ Coffee’s philosophy.”