Meet Mithilesh Vazalwar, a ‘Coffee Q-grader’ & one of the only 25 in India!

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Mithilesh Vazalwar

When you think of careers that take the road less travelled, this one surely ticks all boxes. Mithilesh Vazalwar from Nagpur is a Coffee Q-Grader, one among the only 25 in India, and a Coffee Roaster, Cupper and Trainer. He is the first to earn this certificate from Australia. He is also the First Indian Aeropress Champion and the First to represent India at the World Aeropress Championship (W.A.C.), Seoul, South Korea, in November.

Q-Grading is an internationally recognized exam, conducted by the CQI (Coffee Quality Institute), a Non Profit Organization. The Exam consists of 22 extremely challenging practical sensory tests, and is spread over a period of 6 days!

Mithilesh has undergone intensive training in Melbourne, Delhi, Chiang Mai (Thailand) through uncompromising hours, and many 18 hours work days to get himself closer to his childhood dream. His Coffee Qualifications include SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) Certified Coffee Cupper and SCAE (Specialty Coffee Association of Europe) Certified Barista. Mithilesh is also certified in Level 1 (Barista) & Level 2 (Latte Art) from the Coffee School in Melbourne, Australia.

Regarded as the best in the Industry, Mithilesh is currently consulting cafes in his city and Roasters all over India. He will also be traveling to Myanmar, El Salvador and to the U.S. to provide consultation on setting up and expanding, sourcing the coffee from origins all over the world, roasting, cupping, setting and maintaing quality standards, and working directly with farmers. Mithilesh is also partnering on a project where essentially, specialty coffee education will be the main focus. And his Instagram page @roasting hands is nothing short of a coffee-lover’s delight! In a candid interview with us, Mithilesh tells us about following his passion, and what lies ahead for him –

Why coffee grading as a career?

Coffee has always been a passion. It fascinated me since I was 14. My first memory is from my school corridor where coffee was brewed for teachers. Three years back, when I entered this field I didn’t know much but I was sure of one thing – that Coffee is not just a beverage, and that it has a whole long journey from Crop to Cup. The farmers in India are extremely hard-working and have not got their long-due recognition. Also, Consumers deserve some real good coffee too, by real I mean – freshly Sourced, Roasted and Brewed. My career gives me the opportunity to meet amazing people with the sound background of global Coffee practices that help me implement the same in my trade.

How did you go about preparing for the Q-grading exam?

Q-Grading is an intensive exam comprising of 22 challenging tests, 21 of which are practical ones that test your sensory skills. I had been preparing for the test for atleast 2 years, ensuring I ‘cupped’ as much coffee as I could (‘Cupping’ in Coffee means evaluating coffee on its Taste, Smell, Defects and Scoring the same.) I decided to take the exams in Australia and moved to Melbourne for 3 months before the exam, since I wanted to cup with various people and different coffees. Also, I had other few coffee Exams lined up there. So my daily routine was to Cup coffees blindly at home. My Friends used to set up the Coffees which enabled me to taste them without knowing the origin, altitude, processing etc. 3 Weeks before the exams, I went on a complete NO Spice/Salt/Masala/Non-Veg diet. I only had Salad in the night and was on hummus and pita bread in the day. I wanted to take no chances what so ever. It was an important exam and truly a tough one as well.

What does your job profile entail?

Well, it starts from procuring the green beans from the correct sources and cupping them to understand if we need that stock. If we don’t like a particular lot, there has to be a proper feedback given to the farmer explaining why we are not keen on this crop. This allows them to work on the back end and trust me they are very happy to receive an honest opinion. Once we have procured our beans, we ‘Roast’ the coffee and design a particular ‘Profile’ (Heat Curve) for this coffee depending on what we intend to extract from this bean. Once a profile is designed and decided, we ensure to roast the coffee with utmost care and handle it delicately. Roasting is not mere pushing buttons on a giant machine, it needs tremendous concentration and focus. Post Roasting, we Brew, check extraction, weight loss, colour degree, all these parameters.

 What are your future plans?

We’ve started ‘Corridor Seven Coffee Roasters’, a purely passion-driven specialty coffee company, with its mission to bring Indian Coffee at the forefront and at the world level. We are Roasters first, providing freshly roasted Coffee to home brewers, cafes, offices, restaurants and Hotel chains. We also provide Coffee education for those who are keen on pursuing career in Coffee. It was difficult for me to find someone to guide me here, so we want to eliminate that problem and bring an easy access to good Coffee and education.