Be the change

Why we feature the SCAA cupping score on our coffee labels

  • By Rubens Gardelli

One of the key philosophies behind Gardelli Speciality Coffees is Honesty. Honesty with the coffee, Honesty with the Farmers, and Honesty with you, the consumer.
When it comes to communicating this honesty, we know of no better tool than the SCAA cupping form.

By breaking down the sensory analysis of coffee into key Olfactory and Gustatory attributes, (such as aroma, acidity, body,sweetness etc…) the form allows us to find a true measure of a coffee’s quality.
It’s this quality that’s the key factor to achieving excellence in the cup.

The coffees are scored out of 100, with Specialty Coffees being above 80.

Score Classification

90 - 100

85 - 89.99

80 - 84.99
Very good

My experience with this was born through competition. For many years I have competed in the Brewers Cup competition, reaching the world finals on 2 occasions. Here I learned that what truly matters was the quality in the cup. I quickly saw that this meant starting with green coffee of outstanding quality.  The roasting and brewing are important but the green quality, which is shown through its score, is paramount.

As an Industry we have placed weight behind this score, but lets look at how we can use it to promote Honesty;


Coffe cupping score on label

We believe that the SCAA Cupping score is a key tool in communicating to our customers a coffee’s true quality. By seeing the score on our bags and website, they can be sure that they are buying coffee of true quality.  This of course does not speak to preference, so we use the score alongside considered taste notes to allow the customer to make an informed buying choice. They may prefer the taste of an 86 score Brazil over a 89 score Ethiopia for instance, but with either one they can be sure of excellent quality.
This confirmation of quality for the customer works in hand with pricing as in most commodities, quality costs. By using the SCAA score we can begin to justify and communicate that cost to our customer, whilst also providing some indication of the expected sensory experience.
This feedback loop with the customers also extends to the farmers. From our experience, most farmers lack the tools and knowledge to accurately assess the quality of their green coffee. What the SCAA Form provides is the beginnings of  a common language of quality that allows both the farmer and the buyer to understand the true cost of the product based on quality. This is at the heart of The Q Coffee System, something I am proud to be part of as a Licensed Q Grader.

I truly believe that these feedback loops form part a robust and honest coffee market, where both consumers and Green Coffee buyers are unafraid to pay for true quality.

As a final point it’s important to note that this applies primarily to coffees for filter brewing, the SCAA form lacks key tools to assess certain qualities of espresso, such as crema and mouthfeel. But whilst it’s true that any high scoring coffee will be excellent as either filter brew or espresso, it is possible that many excellent espresso’s will not always score highly on the cupping table.

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