The Rainforest Alliance Cupping for Quality award is designed to recognize exceptional coffees carrying the Rainforest Alliance seal and to highlight the linkage between sustainable farm management practices and cup quality. There are now two annual cuppings and awards, divided by geography. In December, coffees from the southern hemisphere — including Brazil, Peru, Kenya, Tanzania and Indonesia — compete. These are the results of the December 2011 cupping.
This year, there were 45 coffee samples from eight origins submitted.
- Tunki, Peru (87.92). This organic, Fair Trade coffee, from the Tunkimayo sector in Puno, also won in 2009. It consists of mostly typica and bourbon grown at 1300 to 1800 m. Tunki is one of the coffees from CECOVASA (Central de Cooperativas Agrarias Cafetaleras de los Valles de. Sandia), a group of cooperatives totaling nearly 5000 members. CECOVASA has been working with Conservation International, and has won an award for their work preserving biodiversity. “Tunki” is the local name for the national bird of Peru, the spectacular Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, depicted in their logo. Equal Exchange has a good article on a visit to CECOVASA. Peru is not one of my favorite origins, but I had this coffee at a blind tasting at an SCAA event, and it was outstanding. It’s available here; there’s also a Facebook page.
- Deep River, Kwanyoka Estate, Kenya (86.06).
- Ururi, Peru (85.25). This is another organic, Fair Trade CECOVASA coffee (see #1, above), grown at 2000 m from the Pata Inambari Valley. As outlined in this Equal Exchange post, CECOVASA has really been working on quality. Just two years ago, Ururi only scored at 75.48 in the Cupping for Quality competition. What an improvement!
- Mihando, Kenya (85.19).
- Madan Coffee Plantation, Papua New Guinea (84.56). Located in the Western Highlands of PNG, this 320 ha, privately-owned estate was acquired by Highland Arabicas in 2003. They grow primarily Blue Mountain typica, but also Arusha and Mundo Novo.
- Githaka, Kenya (84.50).
- Kihuri Estate, Kenya (84.41).
- Machure Estate, Kenya (84.33).
- Muthaite, Kenya (84.31).
- Parry Estate, Kona Gold Coffee Plantation, USA (Hawaii) (84.25). A family-owned, 354 ha estate at 610 m on Kona (not to be confused with Perry Estate, also on Kona).
I have accumulated detailed data on the Cupping for Quality competition going back to 2007. Including these current results, this consists of seven competitions because Rainforest Alliance went from one to two annual cuppings in 2009. While not all countries were represented in each competition, even within the geographically-limited events, the mix of countries changes from one year to the next. So while this isn’t a totally homogenous data set, the numbers I’ve compiled are still interesting.
The average score for the top ten in this current event was 85.08, which is slightly below the previous average of 85.22. The top score of 87.92 was also below the average of previous top scores (88.35). So far (as this data goes), none of the scores has broken 90 points yet. I don’t think this is necessarily a reflection on the quality of Rainforest Alliance-certified coffees in general. Not all farms compete, and some well-known certified farms don’t or haven’t competed for some time. In fact, I suspect that some of the well-known farms don’t feel they need to, and that entrants may be biased toward up-and-comers that are striving for recognition.
Congratulations to all these farms for their commitment to sustainability and quality.
The next round will be announced in late April at the SCAA event, after which I’ll update the averages and perhaps present some additional data.