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  • The definition of quality

    There are many differing views as to what constitutes 'quality', just as there are about beauty. But it can be said that the quality of a parcel of coffee comes from a combination of the botanical variety, topographical conditions, weather conditions, and the care taken during growing, harvesting, storage, export preparation and transport.

    Botanical variety and topographical conditions are constants and therefore dominate the basic or inherent character of a coffee. Weather conditions are variable and cannot be influenced, resulting in fluctuating quality from one season to another.

    Growing, harvesting, storage, export preparation and transport are variables that can be influenced. They involve intervention by human beings, whose motivation is a key factor in the determination of the end quality of a parcel of green coffee. Depending on their marketing priorities people's efforts will fluctuate between the highest possible level, regardless of the cost, and the bare minimum, in order to reduce costs and optimize revenues and margins. Efforts to promote quality are prejudiced by world market prices and the degree to which buyers are willing to reward attention to the safeguarding and improvement of quality with adequate premiums for better than average quality.

    NB: The following sections are targeted mainly at assisting smaller operators, growers and exporters alike, to make headway in the development of coffee quality (and marketability). It therefore deals mostly with arabica quality as it relates to the quality expectations in the exemplary and medium quality segments of the market. Mainstream type coffees (See 11.08) and robustas (See 11.09) are dealt with separately, although the discussion on 'quality' is relevant to all those producing and exporting coffee. Quality requirements for exemplary type robustas, and for those used in espresso, are largely comparable to those for arabica and just as stringent.