SCA to release Beta version of its Coffee Value Assessment at the SCA Expo and Re:co
The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) has announced that it will be releasing the Beta version of the Coffee Value Assessment, an evolution of the association’s cupping protocol and form at Re:co Symposium and the Specialty Coffee Expo in Portland, Oregon this week. This output is part of the years’ long endeavor to evolve the way the industry captures information about valued attributes in coffee into a modern system underpinned by user research and sensory science best practices.
Background: evaluation and vision
In 2020, for the first time in its history, the SCA began a project to evaluate the performance of the SCA
cupping system, last updated in 2004. Results of a large user survey, including over 1,600 cuppers worldwide, made it clear that a revision was necessary. The 2004 cupping system, while a significant step forward in identifying a coffee’s valued sensory attributes at the time, unintentionally obscured key information about what makes a coffee valuable by reducing its description to a single score. The results of the user survey, in addition to a thorough literature review, guided the revision process and the creation of a holistic system to assess coffee’s value.
In 2021, driven by its sustainability agenda emphasising equitable value distribution throughout the supply chain, the SCA began work on a set of evolved and expanded tools that would create a way to measure and facilitate value assessment and distribution. Additionally, these tools would provide all market actors – including producers and processors – a more holistic and transparent assessment of a coffee, allowing them to find the best possible markets for their products. All of these elements have come together, forming a new way to assess a coffee’s value through the SCA Coffee Value Assessment.
The SCA Coffee Value Assessment
Currently in its Beta version, with some assessments still in research and development, the SCA Coffee Value Assessment allows coffee experts to inventory the valuable attributes of a coffee, according to the SCA’s definition of specialty coffee. Across four separate assessment types, users can record information about physical, sensory, and extrinsic attributes. The 2004 cupping system previously combined some of these different assessment types, but this new approach enables cuppers to evaluate and record a coffee’s sensorial attributes in the descriptive assessment and their “impression of quality” in the affective assessment. By separating these two assessments – the objective description of a coffee’s flavour profile from the taster’s impression of quality – the Coffee Value Assessment reflects best practice in sensory and consumer science, making it compatible with scientific research for the first time.
The physical and extrinsic assessments, outlined in the Coffee Value Assessment Protocol (in beta), are still in research and development. The physical assessment will be an evolution of the SCA’s Grading Protocol, which serves as the industry standard method for evaluating and grading green washed arabica coffee, based on integral research projects organised by the Coffee Science Foundation and supported through key partnerships. A user study, soliciting feedback on an alpha-version of the Extrinsic Assessment form is expected to launch mid-2023.
There are many opportunities to interact with the new assessment system at the upcoming 2023 Re:co Symposium,19-20 April, and the Specialty Coffee Expo, 21-23 April, both in Portland, Oregon. At Re:co Symposium, SCA CEO Yannis Apostolopoulos will formally introduce the beta version of the SCA Coffee Value Assessment and an early adopter programme designed to help the SCA refine the system’s protocol and forms, through both community feedback and scientific research, before moving through its standards development procedure.
“We are excited to release the beta-version of the Coffee Value Assessment,” says Yannis Apostolopoulos, “and to take this opportunity to announce an early-adopter programme, a key feedback and support mechanism that will help us to achieve the vision we’ve outlined for the new system. This new holistic understanding of value, in addition to the assessments’ compatibility with scientific research, will create more robust, transparent records of what is valued and by whom, on a large scale, allowing us to create a more accessible value discovery tool.” Re:co participants will also have the opportunity to engage with the form in a series of seminars, which outline the development process, key elements, and the use of the new forms.
Attendees at Specialty Coffee Expo will have opportunities to learn more about the Coffee Value Assessment across five different lectures, three workshops, and a dedicated day in the cupping exchange. View the SCA Coffee Value Assessment activations taking place at Expo at coffeeexpo.org/value-assessment.
Additional opportunities to learn more, beta-test the forms, or take part in the forthcoming Early Adopter
program can be found at sca.coffee/value-assessment.