The Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) started using
the Q Coffee Quality Certification System for the
first time in Ethiopia for export-ready specialty
coffee consignments starting Thursday, June 17,
2010, after an agreement signed with the Coffee
Quality Institute (CQI).
The in-country agreement (ICP) was signed by Eleni
Gabre-Madhin (PhD), CEO of the ECX, and Ted Lingle,
the CQI executive director.
Q Certification is a tool that facilitates access
for sellers of high quality or premium coffees to
the international specialty coffee market. It uses
criteria and protocols established by the Specialty
Coffee Association of America (SCAA) and recognised
by specialty coffee buyers. It relies on trained and
certified professional coffee cuppers (licensed Q
Graders) to evaluate samples of coffee for export
and assign them a quality category.
In 2009, the CQI worked closely with the ECX to
train their cuppers, certifying 37 as Q Graders, and
to integrate the Q Coffee System into their arrival
The Q Coffee System works by having samples of
coffee independently cupped and scored by licensed Q
Graders and professionally accredited cuppers by the
“This will enable exporters to get the price they
deserve for their coffee once they have been graded
in the international coffee market,” said Eleni.
There are two categories of grading systems,
according to Workeneh Mulugeta, chief coffee quality
cup taster at the commodity exchange.
The first is for specialty coffee, whose grading is
very strict and no defect is tolerated. The grading
in this category comprises of the assessment of
damage to the raw coffee by fungus and insects. Then
the coffee will be roasted lightly with the oven at
a temperature of 250 degrees centigrade to 300
degrees centigrade to observe defects. The roast
will then be grounded and mixed with hot water to
test for the smell of the coffee.
The second category is for commercial coffee, where
up to five per cent in defects is tolerable.
“The ECX was chosen to grade the coffees because it
is a neutral and independent third-party for
exporters. The system creates a fully traceable and
transparent system of exchange for higher quality
coffees,” said Lingle.
The CQI promotes certified coffee exporters once
their coffee has been graded.
“This will create linkage to other markets,” said
During the signing ceremony, out of the 16 exporters
who presented 31 samples, five exporters, GMT
Industrial Plc, Halcof Limited Plc, ATL Trading,
Sidama Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union, and Tega
and Tula Special Coffee Farm Agro Industry, met the
CQI requirements and were certified through the ECX.
“Some of the samples failed to meet the requirements
of the CQI and the rest are being processed by the
graders,” said Lingle.
The inception of the Q System had encouraged him to
continue exporting quality coffee, which can now be
graded and certified, Hailu Gebrehiwot, managing
director of Halcof Limited Plc, said.
The new certification system would increase his
revenues by one third, Mebrahtu Kidane, general
manager of Tega and Tula Special Coffee Farm Agro
Industry, which exports to the US, Europe, and
The Q Certification is valid for one year. One
certificate applies for a single lot of 25 bags or a
container which holds 300 bags at once. The
certification has recognition in the United States,
Asia, and Europe.