The Cup of Excellence is the world’s most prestigious award a coffee can get. It is the gold medal of the Olympic Games of coffee, if you will. How the competition works and what is the idea behind it we will clarify in this article.
The Cup of Excellence competition gives farmers in coffee producing nations of the world the chance to present their coffee to the international community, regardless of each farmer’s wealth or prestige. Every farmer can submit one coffee for evaluation, free of charge. The process is audited strictly, ensuring that each coffee is cupped “blind”, so that the scoring is entirely impartial. The national-level competitions are organized by local coffee industry stakeholders, and are overseen by the Alliance for Coffee Excellence as well as a professional head judge. Three rounds of testing occur nationally. Each coffee must score, at minimum, an 85 out of 100 in each round to proceed to the next. The number of coffees is reduced round by round, with a maximum of 60 coffees proceeding to the international level of competition, each having scored an 85 or more at each previous evaluation. In the three rounds of international evaluation that follow, the coffees that have progressed from the various national competitions are reduced to a field of no more than 45 (mostly much less) and are those who finally will be rewarded with Cup of Excellence. In the 6th and last round, the top 10 coffees are cupped once more, each is studied carefully, with highly specific observations noted in order to determine the final score and ranking. Coffees than are prepared for online auction.
Winning farmers learn of their victory at the awards ceremony and those that managed to score 90 or above win a special Presidential Award. Meanwhile, the coffees are vacuum-sealed, with samples sent out to international buyers. The coffees are sold at online auction about a month and a half after the international juries. All monies earned at auction stay in the coffee’s country of origin, with about 83% of funds returning to the farmer that grew the coffee.
The success and growth of the ACE’s Cup of Excellence events has served to raise interest in great coffees grown around the world. The farmers who produce the singular products that win these competitions enjoy exposure to the international coffee community as well as the sale of their coffee at much higher prices than they would otherwise receive. The additional funds enable them to improve their lifestyles and the quality of their farming practices. This gives tremendous benefit to their local economies and to the gradually improving quality of the coffee grown on their farms. As these specialty coffees continue to improve, the international coffee community can taste a greater variety of remarkable coffees from everywhere the plant is grown.
Just weeks ago (June 2014) we won the El Pireo harvest grown by 5th generation coffee growers in El Salvador. The El Pireo coffee placed 6th at the El Salvador Cup of Excellence events and was scored by their team of experts at an impressive 88.82. We are proud to provide this sublime coffee to our customers around the world. Its unique bouquet of flavors and aromas brings to mind tobacco, vanilla, and lemon as well as many other subtleties. It is an amazing time to be a coffee lover, because the produce of small farms like these is now available to the international coffee community. Because we only sell coffees that are graded by experts at a level of 85 and above, we promise to continue to seek out the very finest coffees that exist. It is our job and it is our passion. We are delighted to share it with you.