What was to become the Cup of Excellence program began over a decade ago in Brazil. The goal was to recognize the efforts of individual farmers who were producing outstanding coffee, often lost in blends at the time. Today, there are COE competitions in nine countries which select the best coffees produced each year. Coffees are cupped at least five times by a jury of national and international judges, and must achieve high scores each round to move on. Final winners are sold to the highest bidders in an internet auction. Not only does the farmer get a very good price for the award-winning coffee, the farm and producer are recognized for their quality, attracting attention from roasters for future crops. Often this recognition also trickles down to benefit the entire community.
COE is owned and managed by the Alliance for Coffee Excellence, a non-profit organization based in the U.S. It is funded by partners, corporate sponsors, and members. Currently, COE has 220 Community Supporters (primarily roaster, many small roasters), 58 Benefactor Supporters (larger roasters and importers) and 17 Lifetime Pioneer members. In 2010, COE added a Solo Supporter membership category. Coffee & Conservation paid our dues as soon as we learned of this opportunity to support the program, and are among the 35 charter solo members.
Among the benefits of a solo membership is an 8 oz share of COE award-winning coffee. This year, it was from the 2011 Nicaragua COE: Finca Bella Aurora, Dipilto, Nueva Segovia, Nicaragua.
Farmer Joaquin Augusto Lovo Lopez grows caturra on 33 ha at 1350-1400 m. The coffee scored 88.17, earning it 6th place. Bella Aurora previously ranked 27th in 2010, and 14th in 2007. The coffee sold for $5.10/lb in the auction held in June 2011. It was purchased by Invalsa Coffee® (USA) with Specialty Coffee (Korea), Java Blend (Canada), Montana Coffee Traders (USA), Rojo’s Roastery (USA), Willoughby’s Coffee (USA), Social Coffee (Canada) and Brasett AB (Sweden).
We really enjoyed this coffee — and part of it was simply knowing what it represented.