Why Cup of Excellence Matters
The world of coffee trade is often fraught with difficulties and unfortunately the famers, those amazing people who produce the bean we start with every day, are often the ones on the receiving end of the hardship. There’s an overwhelming amount of disparity between the opulent coffee bars in America and the working class conditions in Nicaragua or Guatemala. While no particular effort is going to solve all of the issues facing coffee farmers around the world, the Alliance for Coffee Excellence’s Cup of Excellence competition is making great strides.
As I write this, I’m drinking a fabulous cup of our most recent offering from Deeper Roots Coffee: The Costa Rica La Vuelta. It’s an incredible and multi-faceted cup, unlike anything we’ve had in recent memory. Wine-like berry flavors give way to a bright acidity, caramel, brown sugar, and a delicate floral note. It’s everything we love about coffee. I won’t lie to you: it’s an expensive bean. But let me explain why it’s worth the price tag - both for you, and for the grower.
What is Cup of Excellence?
The Cup of Excellence competition is a yearly event held by the Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE), an independent, US-based nonprofit organization. ACE organizes a Cup of Excellence competition in a growing list of countries, thought it began in Central America. To understand how the competition works, let’s look at our grower for the La Vuelta: Alejandro Solis.
Alejandro and his family worked tirelessly this year, their very first year of milling (meaning processing) their own coffee. They made sure to pick only the ripest cherries, and were very particular and careful to classify and dry their coffees by hand. Alejandro then sent a small batch of his green coffee to the C.O.E. competition for Costa Rica.
At the competition, the coffees entered are all roasted uniformly, and then they are “cupped” blind five separate times. Cupping is a method of evaluating the quality of a particular bean and involves smelling, tasting, and taking meticulous notes about what flavor profiles emerge. Judges do this process blind to avoid any bias. Alejandro’s coffee placed 11th overall. That means that Alejandro’s coffee is considered one of the very best to come out of Costa Rica this year.
What does C.O.E. mean for the farmer, and for you?
The “Cup of Excellence Winner” sticker nearly always commands a high price. All winners participate in an auction process, where roasters can place bids on the winning lots of coffee. For some, this can increase their profits by as much as five times. World records for price have been and continue to be broken at C.O.E. auctions. Can you imagine what a five-fold increase in profit can mean for the life of a small coffee farmer and his family?
Cup of Excellence also strives to increase the overall quality of coffee being grown. It’s a slow process, but as farmers work to improve the quality of their fruit, US and international roasters are willing to pay a higher premium. Quality of life then increases for the farmer as a result of his hard work.
For us, it means we get to experience an amazing, delicious, and singular coffee. Alejandro’s hard work can be experienced directly - by drinking the coffee made from his farm. We’ll be offering it through the end of the year as a pour-over on the bar. And you can get some of Alejandro’s beans to take home as well. It’s an investment, but one that Alejandro has earned, and that you will most certainly enjoy.