High Quality and High Turnout Mark Cup of Excellence Africa Events

At competitions in Rwanda and Burundi this month, Cup of Excellence saw a record-setting number of entries, many farmers new to the competition, and exceptionally high quality.


Cover photo by Hengye Li

In 2008, Rwanda became the first African country to host a Cup of Excellence (COE), the global origin competition recognizing farmer excellence and rewarding fantastic coffees.

Flash forward to now, and this month COE marked its 10th anniversary of that event by returning to Rwanda for a successful competition, setting a record for all-time entries with over 344 washing stations entering. The 2018 Rwanda COE was one of two Cup of Excellence events held in August, with the program also holding its sixth competition in Burundi earlier in the month.

Cup of Excellence held competitions in Burundi (pictured) and Rwanda in August. Photo courtesy of the Alliance for Coffee Excellence.

After taking a two-year break from its Rwanda competition, COE returned to a high interest level and volume of entries. Darrin Daniel, executive director of the Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE)—the nonprofit organization that operates Cup of Excellence—says the large number of entries was largely due to the local coffee industry spreading word of COE’s return to local cooperatives and washing stations. “We also know that success in other countries had fueled interest in our program from many new farmers,” Darrin says.

The COE took a two-year hiatus from Rwanda, and this year almost 350 washing stations entered the competition. Photo by Hengye Li.

This interest from new farmers translated to the top-two finishers at the Rwanda COE having never entered the competition previously. First-place finisher Twumba, located in Rwanda’s Western Province, scored a 90.53, while second-place Mayogi from the Northern Province earned a 90.06. See the full list of Rwanda COE winners here. The coffees were evaluated by an international jury of representatives from coffee companies around the world, including Japan, the United Sates, South Korea, United Kingdom, Germany, El Salvador, Australia, Switzerland, China, France, Burundi, and Costa Rica.

In the Burundi COE, the volume of entries was also exceptionally high at 331 samples, and the country’s coffee showed extraordinary quality, with seven coffees scoring 90 points or higher to earn COE’s Presidential Award. “The sheer number of Presidential winners was an all-time record for any country,” Darrin says. “Jurists mentioned how bright and complex the coffees were, and many drew analogies to the brightness often found in Kenya coffees that are washed in a similar style as those from Nyeri or Kirinyaga.” Rubagabaga from Burundi’s Kayanza region earned the top spot at 91.43, while Munkaze Coffee placed second at 91.14 points. See the full list of Burundi winners here.

The Burundi COE also received a high number of entries at 331, and many cuppers noted brightness and complex flavors in the coffees. Photo courtesy of the Alliance for Coffee Excellence.

With the East Africa competitions now complete, the Alliance for Coffee Excellence will hold auctions for the top coffees next month: Rwanda takes place September 20, and the Burundi auction will be September 25. Head to ACE’s website for more information on how to bid on the coffees. As with all COE auctions, the coffees are expected to fetch high prices that will return significant premiums to the farmers who grew them—at COE’s most recent auction in July for its 2018 Mexico winners, the top lot fetched $100.20 a pound.

About Chris Ryan 259 Articles
Chris Ryan (he/him) is Barista Magazine's online copy editor and a freelance writer and editor with a background in the specialty coffee industry. He has been content director of Sustainable Harvest and the editor of Fresh Cup Magazine.