I am extremely excited to share some wonderful news. Our farm in El Salvador just placed #16 in the Cup of Excellence! That may not mean much to you, so continue reading to find out more.
The Cup of Excellence (“COE”) is a program that began more than twenty years ago with the goal of recognizing farmers for the excellent quality of their coffees and helping them receive more money for better quality. It is an international competition done at a country level that continues to add more countries to its program every year.
Quality in coffee twenty years ago was synonymous with a lack of defects. Coffee lots were not necessarily assessed for taste, but rather, for the absence of flavours considered defective. Such flavours could be fermented, mold, rubber, etc. It was common for lots from different farms to be mixed together if the lots were found to be “acceptable” and exports tended to be from a particular mill without much differentiation. Coffee as a commodity was not really differentiated. Farmers, for the most part, were focused on volume as well. More coffee equaled more profits and no one was really asking for quality.
However, trends began to shift at the end of the 90s, as certain trailblazer coffee buyers began to recognize that coffee can taste very different from one farm to the next. The perception of quality was changing from one of acceptable coffee to one where quality encompassed a whole set of characteristics that make a coffee unique. Requests started to come in for farmers to keep a certain lot or variety separated or processed in a certain way. To cover the increased effort, such buyers were willing to offer a higher price for such quality coffee. It was around this time that COE was born, as a mechanism that allows farmers to showcase their coffees on the world stage and get a significant premium that recognizes the effort to deliver the best coffee in a country.
The way COE works is that all farmers in a country are allowed to submit samples of their best coffees for assessment. The local coffee entity does a preliminary screening and selects acceptable samples for a “national jury”. The national jury then cups all coffees over a whole week several times and selects coffees that have met a minimum score (currently 87 points).
Those coffees are then submitted to an “international jury” for evaluation. The international jury is composed of COE judges with significant experience in evaluating coffee. After another excruciating round of evaluations, all coffees are ranked and only the top 30 coffees are considered COE winners for the year. The remaining coffees are catalogued as national winners. The jury is trained to evaluate each coffee for aroma, acidity, sweetness, mouthfeel, flavour, aftertaste, balance, no noticeable defects, cleanness of the cup and overall score.
Winners are then entered into an auction where multiple buyers around the world can bid to procure the best coffees. Prices vary but top coffees can sell for prices that are up to 5x higher than non-top coffees. This also provides the farmer with an opportunity to meet coffee buyers that can be recurring customers in the future.
For this year's competition, there were 103 samples submitted, of which 79 were accepted for the national jury evaluation. Of those, only 40 samples proceeded to the international jury assessment.
So, glad to report that our lot from Finca Manuela won 16th place in the top 30! Finca Argentina's Pacamara also placed but as a national winner and almost made it to the top 30 with a score of 87.13 (this is the one you can currently purchase on our website as our "Family Estate Pacamara"). Both farms are next to each other and have different names (and deeds) but are managed as one for practical purposes. So, extremely happy about the recognition and looking forward to receiving the new crop of coffee later this year. We are already extremely excited about it.
Above is a photo of our dad (Mine and Adriana's), after receiving the awards, and below is the list of Cup Of Excellence El Salvador 2023 Winners.