Founded in 1999, the Cup of Excellence is a highly prestigious competition that aims to recognise and reward the very best coffees in the world. Run in nine countries around the globe, the competition is open to any coffee farmer and consists of three rigorous stages in which coffees are cupped and scored by a national jury, from the host country, and an international jury. A coffee’s score is determined by individual scores in the categories of: absence of defects, cleanness of cup, sweetness, quality of acidity and of mouthfeel, flavour, aftertaste and balance. These scores are then added together and it is the coffees that obtain a score of 84 points or more that are awarded a Cup of Excellence. Of these award winners, the top ten coffees are ranked and the overall national winner is selected.
The winning coffees are sold at an internet auction to the highest bidder about 5 weeks after the competition. The amount of winning coffees that go on auction depends entirely on the quality of the entrants for a specific country, so the number may vary from year to year. The majority of the auction proceeds, more than 80% of the final price, go to the farmer. The remaining proceeds are paid to the in-country organising committee to sustain the program.
The Cup of Excellence program builds the bridge between the high quality farmer, the high quality trade and eventually the consumer who finds coffees he truly loves and at the same time knows that the farmer has been well compensated. Each winning coffee has its own flavour signature from the earth where it grows and all have been handcrafted in such a way as to enhance these unique characteristics.
Susie Spindler and Grant Rattray, executive director and managing director of the Cup of Excellence respectively, led us in a tasting of 10 award-winning coffees from Brazil, Colombia, Rwanda and El Salvador. Two commercial ‘control’ coffees were thrown in to demonstrate the vast difference in quality of the coffees. Following a talk about the details of the scoring process, the cupping proceeded in a relaxed and informal manner with much sniffing and slurping. The coffee, as was expected, was mind blowing.
Origin is currently serving a Cup of Excellence coffee from a farm in El Salvador called La Batalla. I’d recommend getting there ASAP, you don’t want to miss out on this one.
Find out more about the Cup of Excellence at www.cupofexcellence.org.