• Specifying 'quality': on description


    Quality can be specified in any one of a number of ways.

    On description: The quality will usually correspond to a known set of parameters relating to country of origin, green appearance and liquor quality. Most of the descriptive parameters are open to varying interpretations. For example, in the description Country XYZ arabica grade one, fair average quality, crop 2002, even roast, clean cup, the only real specifics are that the coffee must be of the 2002 crop in country XYZ and that the bean size and defect count should correspond to what country XYZ stipulates for grade one arabica.

    Fair average quality (FAQ): essentially means that the coffee will be representative of the average quality of the crop, but there is no defined standard for this.

    Even roast implies that the roasted coffee will not contain too many pales (yellow beans) and will be of reasonably even appearance.

    Clean cup indicates that the liquor should not present any unclean taste or off-flavour, but otherwise says nothing about the cup quality. Nevertheless, buyers know roughly what the cup quality ought to be and, for example, if the cup were to be completely flat or lifeless, they would argue that this was not consistent with fair average quality for country XYZ.

    The trade in robusta is largely based on descriptions. These convey the quality being sold fairly well because the liquor quality of robusta does not normally fluctuate as widely as that of arabica. Descriptions greatly facilitate the trade in coffee but it should never be forgotten that the roaster (the end-user) will always consider the liquor quality when assessing the overall quality of a coffee. The quality represented by FAQ will vary from season to season. FAQ of the season means the quality must be comparable to the average quality shipped during that crop year; arbitrators will judge any claims on that basis. If quality tends to vary widely within a country and a season, the seller may go further and stipulate FAQ of the season at the time and place of shipment.

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