Cup of Excellence Celebrating Its 20th Anniversary

The origin competition, which honors farmer excellence and awards exquisite coffees, will return to the cite of its first event in Brazil with a multi-day celebration in October.


Photos courtesy of Cup of Excellence

In 1999, Cup of Excellence held its first-ever coffee-evaluation competition in Lavras, Brazil, located in the Minas Gerais state in the southeast of the country. Then called Best of Brazil, the competition brought together experienced coffee professionals to evaluate top coffees from the region, with the goal of rewarding farmers with high prices for their high-quality coffee.

Fast-forward to today, and the Cup of Excellence (CoE) competition—which is run by the nonprofit organization Alliance for Coffee Excellence—has had a substantial impact on coffee producers around the world. Through 140 auctions in more than a dozen countries, CoE has raised over $60.3 million in auction revenue.

The Cup of Excellence competition started in Brazil in 1999, and has since expanded across the coffee-producing world, bringing in over $60 million in auction revenue.

Along the way, the competition has accomplished CoE’s goal of helping farmers earn more money for their coffee: At the first competition in Brazil in 1999, the top price paid for the winning lot was $1.72 a pound. In 2018, the highest-ever price for a CoE auction was paid: $300.09 a pound for the winning lot in Costa Rica.

This October, the Cup of Excellence competition will celebrate 20 years of impact by returning to Lavras, Brazil, for its 2019 CoE Brazil, taking place Oct. 15-20. In addition to the CoE competition, the event will include a celebration with many of CoE’s founders and legacy partners in attendance, as well as many of the judges from the original 1999 jury. “We are planning a gathering with producers and invited guests—many of which were judges on the first Brazil competition, such as George Howell and Silvio Leite—to the top 10 cupping this year,” says Darrin Daniel, executive director of ACE.

CoE juries evaluate and award coffees that are later auctioned; in 2018, a buyer paid the highest-ever price for a CoE auction at over $300 per pound.

Darrin says additional festivities during that week will include an awards ceremony hosted by the Brazil Specialty Coffee Association, as well as a panel with the original founders to discuss the beginning of Cup of Excellence in Brazil in 1999. Also helping to lead the events will be coffee processing expert Dr. Flavio Borem from the University of Lavras, which will be hosting the competition.

To celebrate 20 years, COE will return to Lavras in Brazil for the 2019 Brazil Cup of Excellence.

To mark the upcoming anniversary, ACE recently made a couple of announcements about its program going forward:

– The organization has altered the rules to improve quality further at CoE auctions. Among the changes: Coffees now must score 87 and above to pass through to the CoE Auction (compared to 86 and above previously to 2019), while a maximum of 30 coffees from each country can pass to the CoE Auction (compared to 40 coffees before).

– ACE is also expanding its Sensory Education Trainings (SET) in 2019 (see upcoming dates here). The courses are designed to educate interested coffee professionals about the use of the CoE cupping form, the Cup of Excellence program, and to further expand ACE’s mission in producing and consuming countries. “By teaching the Cup of Excellence form created by George Howell, we are giving interested coffee professionals the ability to understand not only the form, but also the overall impact the program has and further define quality and the transparency that come with the Cup of Excellence program,” Darrin says.

With CoE’s 20-year anniversary now just months away, Darrin says he is both excited to celebrate the event’s legacy and enthusiastic about what the future holds for CoE. “With over $60 million in auction revenue generated for farmers and over 9.1 million pounds of lots sold all over the world, this anniversary marks the level of impact we have had in defining what truly is specialty coffee,” Darrin says. “This year also gives us a new road map for growing the program and hopefully broadening not only our reach to new farmers and new countries, but also our ability to resonate and continue our sense of relevance within the roasting and retailing communities around the world.”

About Chris Ryan 264 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.