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Roukiat Delrue takes new role at CQI

From the July 2017 issue.

We talk to the Coffee Quality Institute’s new Director of Q and Educational Programming, Roukiat Delrue.

Roukiat Delrue

Coffee is extremely addictive – not just the beverage itself, but the industry, too. Just ask the Coffee Quality Institute’s (CQI) new Director of Q and Educational Programming, Roukiat Delrue.

Once a professional interpreter, it just took one round of sustained exposure to the coffee industry – through interpreting for a group of coffee producers from Rwanda who were funded by Chemonics to travel to Guatemala in 2005 – and she was, in her own words, “hooked”.

“I had the lovely opportunity to be with a group of coffee producers from Rwanda who were doing visits throughout the whole coffee chain: growing, processing, co-ops, cupping, everything!  After that, it’s safe to say I was hooked,” she tells Global Coffee Report.

Originally from Belgium, and with a business degree, it’s safe to assume that Delrue has never been one to lack initiative. And so, once she had caught the coffee bug, she took decisive action.

“I approached the National Coffee Association in Guatemala (Anacafe) and started working there for about a year or so. That’s how it all started,” she says.

That was in 2005. While at Anacafe, she worked as the National Promotions Manager. In this role, Delrue first visited that Mecca of specialty coffee events, the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s annual event, where she worked on a booth in Seattle in 2005.

At this time she also had her first exposure to barista competitions, coordinating the organisation of the Guatemalan Barista Competition.

Delrue’s involvement with CQI began very early in her career, when in 2006 she joined their Coffee Corps volunteer program.

“My first assignment was in Ethiopia,” she says.

The Coffee Corps assignment was broken into two parts. The first one was Delrue and two others conducting barista training, and the second part was organising a barista competition for the participants.

“The barista training was in a tiny cafe and obviously with the most rudimentary tools at the time,” she tells GCR. “For some reason they also had this belief that to make a cappuccino you placed the espresso inside the milk and then steamed the two together! Pair that with the language barrier and we spent a lot of time ‘signing’ to them that you shouldn’t do that. 

Roukiat Delrue

“Then we moved on to the barista competition. We spent two days attempting to ‘train’ the judges in something they had never even seen. We did the whole thing and were feeling fairly comfortable with the result. The day of the competition comes and I see some of the judges hanging out and basically not at the event so obviously I go get them; they just look at me and say: “oh, but we’re not judging today, today is fasting day!”, which implied they couldn’t have milk – a minor detail they all failed to mention,” she says with a laugh.

Delrue adds that the trip to Ethiopia was, for her, as much a learning experience as a teaching one.

“Ultimately my ‘life lessons’ I guess were two: Number one, you learn something way better when you teach it and you have to overcome all sorts of obstacles such as language barriers or lack of equipment, and number two, whenever you think you’re there to teach, you learn so much from them; from the students, from the country, from the culture ... It’s a lovely thing!”

Delrue remained involved with Coffee Corps, which led her to a deeper involvement with the industry and ultimately into the world of barista competitions.

“As a volunteering project, I was asked to help in a few Latin American countries who were starting their barista competitions. I inevitably got involved in organising many first time competitions and judging as well, and that is also how I joined World Coffee Events.”

Delrue worked on a variety of projects with WCE, ultimately becoming its National Bodies Manager, a role that she held until December, 2016.

“I currently still judge and am a Certified WCE Judge and Head Judge for Barista Competition, Brewers Cup and Latte Art.”

Delrue has been a certified Q Grader for CQI since 2009, able to work as a grader and instructor with both Arabica and Robusta.

“Through volunteering projects, I started teaching Q in several countries as well. It is definitely interesting and enriching to be able to teach it to producers, who don’t always get access to something as simple as coffee from other origins – their notion of quality changes for sure,” she says.

“The aim of the Q program is always to help improve the quality of coffee and the lives of people who produce it. It is a way of teaching an objective way of measuring quality, while improving the communication between producers and buyers.”

Delrue tells GCR that she hopes to shape her role as Director of Q and Educational Programming for CQI with her passionate approach to improving coffee quality around the world.

“The new role implies all sorts of new and exciting things,” she tells GCR. “Keeping the Q going, of course, but also the direction it will take and any changes implemented to it to adapt to the ever changing coffee industry (which is great!)”

Delrue will also play an active role in helping CQI in developing new certifications, such as processing, and will have very active roles in helping develop new coffee origins such as Myanmar and Yunnan or Philippines.

Roukiat Delrue

While the Q program stands alone as an industry benchmark, that does not mean there is not room for evolution.
Delrue is keen to address or integrate new trends and industry needs, such as updating the Q Robusta materials and even looking into the development of an Advanced Q certification.

“It’s all very interesting – the possibilities are endless – I think!” she says.

With the Specialty Coffee Associations of America and Europe recently combining to form the SCA, Delrue says the entire coffee industry is in the process of adjusting to the new reality.

“I think all institutions are currently navigating to adjust to the new SCA merger and see where everything fits – for example – but those are all good challenges to have,” she says.

“SCA (and previously both SCAA and SCAE) have always worked together with CQI – our programs are complementary more than anything else. We have always relied on their Lab Certification Program and they also defer back to us for anything related to Q. I will be part now of the

“Education Advisory Council” which is completely natural to the parts of the industry I’ve been involved in from the beginning and also a part that virtually has an impact on all the others.” GCR

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