The SCA releases white paper on the value of specialty coffee cuppers

Specialty Coffee Association white paper

The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) has released a new white paper entitled ‘The Value of Specialty Coffee Cuppers: Perspectives, Roles, and Professional Competencies.’

On 6 October 2022, the SCA announced the appointment of a task force comprised of cuppers, institutional partners, and leaders in the coffee community to help build a robust system for specialty coffee cuppers and graders. At present, the task force is comprised of more than 40 members, a mix of volunteering individuals and invited organisational representation.

“While the SCA works in the evolution of cupping, as a tool within a system to assess coffee value, what about those who carry out the sensory assessment—coffee cuppers—and their present and future roles?” asks Dr. Mario Fernández Alduenda, SCA Technical Officer and task force liaison. “It is easy to recognise the coffee cupper plays a key role in our industry. What is not that easy is to define that role accurately in the context of an evolving, diverse, and complex industry.”

According to the SCA, in the past, cupping was sometimes seen as such a specialised skill that only one or two people in a business might cup coffee regularly, and trained cuppers were sometimes seen in the coffee trade as having an enhanced ability to perceive coffee and adjudicate quality. In recent years, this has changed as our understanding of coffee sensory science has advanced. Cupping has become a more inclusive practice, offering a way to spread understanding of a coffee and its value throughout an organisation, or along a supply chain.

“During this process, we asked ourselves about the vision for the ‘cupper of the future’ and considered how their role, functions, competencies, and skills would have to evolve to meet the present and future challenges of the industry. This white paper, developed with the support of a task force of coffee cuppers from diverse countries, reflects on all of these questions and highlights the importance of the professional coffee cupper— more relevant today than ever,” says SCA CEO Yannis Apostolopoulos.

The SCA outlines its view that cuppers are highly skilled, not just as ‘tasters’ (although this skill is foundational to the role), but as subject matter experts who may discover, support, ensure, and communicate the quality of coffee while acting as key market linkages within the coffee value chain.

By calling attention to the wide range of roles cuppers currently occupy—and the vast range of relevant supplemental or complementary competencies currently required to fulfill them—the paper’s goal is to offer a clear path of professional development for those seeking to work in the specialty coffee sector.

To access the white paper, click here.

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