On the International Women’s Day, 8th March, we continue our topic on women in the
coffee industry. We had the pleasure to receive at DABOV Yunson Lee, South Korean Q Grader, in August 2018 and here is what she shared about her professional life with us.
Today is our special cupping Coffee from Women for Women on three coffees produced by female farmers.
You are a Q-Grader and South Korea has the highest number of Q-Graders in the world. What attracted you to the world of specialty coffee?
Yunson Lee: Coffee is a very big commodity in the world. And it has always motivated me to make more. Every year, at the end of the year I think that I have finished working with coffee. But next year starts and I have another issue and so it’s really motivating to learn or to think about it. Coffee is never boring, and this is what makes me really enjoy this work. Besides that, specialty coffee has a lot of meaning for a lot of other people. For the farmers, specialty coffee is like a gate to a new and better life because its price really makes a difference.
Specialty coffee helps them upgrade the life of their family because buyers are always from more developed countries than theirs. Specialty coffee also provides a common ground for people from different cultures to meet. Let’s say, some farmers didn’t expect to meet someone from Korea. But when they meet, they start to have a new idea about Korea, Asia, or some other part of the world. I think this also motivates them more to focus on the quality of their
Specialty coffee leads us to unknown worlds
When we speak about specialty coffee, I think it’s really about
Does this also mean that when you are looking for coffees to buy for your company those elements
Yes. I’m looking for quality, but
Do you try to convey all this information that you gather from the farmers and the way that they produce their coffee, this environmentally conscious and environmentally friendly approach to your customers as well?
Yes. Whenever we have a new coffee and whenever we have a chance to talk about coffee with our customers, we always do so. If our customer likes to keep this coffee as his daily drink, then he must start from this – we prefer him to enjoy his coffee at our place in a beautiful cup instead of taking a paper cup away. And this is a kind of a small message which I hope motivates our customers to reduce trash. They start to think about Rwanda, where is it, who is the farmer. I think all is connected.
Thanks to specialty coffee everything is connected
So, I think about our roastery as the mediator between the customer and the producers. We would like our customers to think about the origin or the producer of their coffee. If we are really good as roasters, we can make people from different countries think about each other. Whenever I go to Rwanda, not only my friend, but other farmers want to meet me. They don’t talk, they just watch me cupping their coffee, thinking “Ah, she’s our buyer.” And after,
Apart from being a buyer in Terarosa Company, you are in the board of directors of Cup of Excellence and a juror in the competition. How is this different or complementary to your work in Terarosa?
I joined Cup of Excellence in 2009. I was a juror three times in the competition. I believe that if someone has the money to buy a ticket, it is the best way to buy or to learn about high-quality coffee. For a cupper, if he hasn’t tasted those type of coffees, if he doesn’t have the necessary experience, it will be very difficult for him to choose one coffee instead of another. He may taste a highly commercial coffee and without the necessary experience start to think that this is an amazing coffee. Cupping and evaluating the quality of coffee depends on my experience. I participated in many Cup of Excellence contests because I want to have the highest standard for specialty coffee.
What is the most important question for the coffee hunter
When I want to buy a coffee, the most important question that I ask myself is, if I want to develop this coffee and to have it in my cup? As a board member of Alliance for Coffee Excellence, we try to satisfy the needs of the farmers and the buyers. It’s not easy! ACE is a nonprofit organization, and everyone thinks that this equals donations. ACE needs money to work but we don’t get any profit. To survive and to run the competition, we need money from both sides. Sometimes, farmers or buyers complain why is there a commission that they must pay. We try to find ways to solve these misunderstandings by changing the rules for the competition and making everyone happy. We also want to start making competitions in new countries, like Indonesia, for example, in order to have more diversity.
We also want not only to keep the standard for coffee high but also to make it stable – this ACE’s highest goal. COE is also part of the business. Good coffee means good money for the farmers and good sales for the buyers. Personally, I learned a lot during Cup of Excellence and I and our company really appreciate this organization because again, the easiest way to learn about quality is to join the company. Except for the competition, you can learn a lot about
The biggest difficulties a woman faces in the coffee industry
You are a woman in this industry where still the number of women is not that high. What were the biggest difficulties that you face as a woman? Do you have
You know actually in the world of coffee women have an advantage in front of men. I think that because we have more sensibility for the taste. When you start training a man and a woman, she is always faster in learning how to cup and evaluate quality. So, as a
But I realized that as a woman psychologically and physically I am not as brave as a man. Men naturally have, how should I say it, a brave mind. They are never afraid. They just are very simple – they go and get some experience! Women we start to calculate everything – time, danger, etc. This kind of complicated calculation makes us stop. But don’t be afraid, go!
Do you know that…
The Q Grader Programme is the coffee industry’s most recognized and coveted certification system for Arabica and Robusta cuppers, with over 3,500 Q Graders worldwide and the biggest number of them are in South Korea.