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Let's talk about Cup of Excellence

  • 3 min read

The Cup of Excellence program, founded back in 1999 fundamentally changed the entire speciality coffee industry. In fact, it has created and supported innovation and advances in coffee farming that simply wouldn't have been impossible without the program. 

What is the Cup of Excellence? 

The Cup of Excellence is a competition hosted by Alliance for Coffee Excellence which is held every year, across 11 of the worlds best coffee producing countries. The aim of the competition is to uncover and auction the finest speciality coffee from each country - and bring them to the international market. Fun fact - from the millions of bags of coffee that are produced each year, only a few will make the Cup of Excellence cut! 

The Cup of Excellence supports coffee producers around the world by incentivising and motivating producers who know that there may be recognition and financial reward for their hard work and effort. Since the inception of COE, it continues to build a more transparent infrastructure and provides farmers with the necessary tools so that they can improve their farms.

How does the competition work?

The Cup of Excellence judging competition rolls out in three key stages. 

Stage 1 - Coffee farmers from across the world submit small amounts of their highest quality coffee to the international panel of certified judges for visual inspection. 

Stage 2 - The judges select the top sixty coffees to progress into the next round. From this point, the panel blindy examines and scores the coffees based on various factors such as bitterness, sweetness, acidity, aroma and mouthfeel. This rolls out in rounds, with 10-15 coffees being eliminated each time until the top 30 remain. 

Stage 3 - Finally, the coffees are each cupped by an international panel of approved tasters who will cup the coffees at least five more times over three days. To attain Cup of Excellence status, coffees must score a minimum of 84. In addition to this, coffees which score 90+ receive a coveted gold medal. 

When the competition is over, the final 30 coffees are available online for roasters around the world to purchase. The winners are sold to the highest bidders and the profit returns to the coffee farmers. Award-winning batches can often achieve up to 50 times the market price at auction - a truly life changing sum for the coffee farmers. This allows them to further invest in their farming practices and other projects. 

How does Cup of Excellence benefit coffee growing communities? 

Winning Cup of Excellence changes a farmer's life forever. Over the past 20 years, the COE auctions have garnered over $60 million in revenues to thousands of coffee farmers across the world.However, in addition to the profits reaped from COE auctions, the recognition that comes with winning this prestigious competition is huge. This has a positive impact on the farmer’s reputation and can  drive serious demand for coffee from entire micro regions. COE's rigid transparency to participating farms also supports overall economic development and financial reward for families and entire coffee growing communities.

The competition motivates creation of greater volumes of higher premium coffees in producing countries thus leading to enhancing the value of specialty coffee exports in often poor areas. Therefore, when you opt for a Cup of Excellence Coffee, you’re not only purchasing delicious, exclusive beans but you are also supporting the work of talented coffee farmers - and contributing to the long term sustainability of coffee economies around the world. 

We hope you enjoyed learning more about Cup of Excellence today. To find out more about COE click right here and to try some delicious Cup of Excellence coffee, roasted by us, check out our latest offerings.