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Cup Of Excellence: What It Is and How It Affects The Specialty Coffee Industry?


Have you ever read about a coffee that was awarded at Cup of Excellence and asked yourself why does that coffee is so special?

The Cup of Excellence (CoE) began in 1999 and is an annual competition held in several countries, hosted by Alliance for Coffee Excellence, the organization that has supported coffee farmers’ education and development for over 20 years. As of 2020, competitions are held in Brazil, Colombia, Peru, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Burundi, Ethiopia, and Rwanda.

The founders of Alliance are George Howel and Susie Spindler, and the whole purpose of the event is to identify the highest quality coffee produced.

Cup of Excellence: How The Competition Works

Farmers from all over the world submit small lots of their best coffee and judges select the top 60 coffees to move on to the next round.

International certified judges have to choose – in series of fair, blind tests –  between 60 coffees and score things like acidity, aftertaste, sweetness, bitterness, aroma or mouthfeel, but also look for defects or inconsistent flavors. For every round of coffee cupping, 10 or 15 coffees are eliminated until only ten remain. The final coffees are cupped again, tasted and scored at least five times – until they decide the winner.

In the course of the competition each coffee is tested at least five times. Only those coffees that get high scores continuously move forward in the competition. The final winners are awarded the Cup of Excellence and sold via an internet auction to the highest bidder.

Once the competition ends, the top 30 coffees are available online for buyers and roasters from around the world, who can bid on the coffees – money return to the farmers, to support their work and their projects.

Cup of Excellence: What’s in for the community?

Cup of Excellence is recognized more and more around the world as a reputable competition that fairly picks the best of the best coffees every year. And the coffee community benefits from it. The recognition that a farmer gets from ranking or winning Cup of Excellence reflects in the quality of the beans and of course, the final price of the coffee. The money that they can win at this kind of competition are used for better equipment, farm improvements, labor training. Moreover, this kind of reward reflects in education, healthcare, life improving services, better quality coffee, the possibility to compete again next year. Can you see the implications? 

We, as roasters, strongly believe that a Cup of Excellence winning coffee is worth the experience. Have you tasted a Cup of Excellence winning coffee?

Photo Credit: Alliance for Coffee Excellence

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