Describing Quality Is the Name of the Game in Specialty Beverages

Tom WallaceBrewery Industry, Specialty Coffee, Specialty Tea

I recently came across some very interesting programs offered in the brewing, tea and coffee industries. Each program prepares individuals to discern characteristics of the respective products. These informed people can judge competitions, help consumers make more informed choices and play a key role in quality control.

First let’s take a look at the Craft Brewing industry. While hunting around for information regarding brewery prospects I as working with I came upon the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP).  This program has evolved over the years and is an association of beer judges run by the membership.

The information I obtained was purely from the website but I found it very interesting that, given the many beer competitions that are out there, the industry had an actual judging program. If you have interest you can check out the website at for more information.  The program offers a formalized way of discerning styles of beer with in depth characteristics. A very inexpensive book can be ordered or PDF and Word versions are available on the website. Testing locations are also listed and are mostly based in the United States. I did see a few in Australia and Canada.  Also available are judging guidelines, score sheets and other practical information that can be used to judge beer in a competitive setting.

My second discovery came from the August 2011 issue of Coffee Talk magazine in an article written by Rocky Rhodes. You can check out the digital version of the article on Coffee Talk’s website,  for the full article.  The article describes a process in which someone can become a certified “Q Grader” to discern the quality of coffee based on ten characteristics. Each characteristic is graded on a 1-10 scale and the cumulative total used to grade the coffee. The testing sounds rigorous and is offered by the Coffee Quality Institute. The overall goal is to judge the quality of coffee beans  to be sure they warrant being labeled as a specialty coffee. It also gives a standard language that people throughout the coffee supply chain can use to speak accurately about a particular coffee. A great overview of the program can be found on the Coffee Quality Institutes site so check it out if you have interest.

Last but certainly not least is the Certified Tea Master program offered by the American Tea Masters Association. This is a thirteen week education program that leads to the Certified Tea Master certification. This is a  very interesting program that can be done as a group or on a one on one basis. The one on one program can be done at home via Skype technology.  Check out the ATMA website  for more details.

As specialty beverage products continue to grow the need to identify people who can accurately judge, label and describe a product will be needed. Specialty products command higher pricing premiums because of taste and quality. If consumers can rely on informed opinions because of these types of programs it will make marketing and selling product much more enjoyable for all involved.

As always we are an independent insurance agency focused on the specialty food and beverage industry. We keep abreast of the facts and trends to better understand your industry.  We don’t think you will find this kind of knowledge anywhere in the insurance industry.

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Thanks for reading,