Cup of Excellence Focuses on Traceability with New Partnership

A group of producers and scientists stand together with facemasks on.

The coffee-quality competition will work with scientific analysis company Oritain to build a global database to prove the origin of submitted coffees.


Photos courtesy of Alliance for Coffee Excellence

Cup of Excellence (CoE) has long prided itself on recognizing extraordinary-quality coffee—with competitions in over 10 countries, CoE regularly seeks to reward farmers’ high-quality offerings with top-dollar prices while identifying some of the world’s best coffees.

Now, the competition is taking another step to ensure transparency and integrity through a new partnership with scientific traceability company Oritain. According to a new press release from CoE’s organizers, the nonprofit Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE), “Oritain will analyze coffee from the Cup of Excellence, building up a database of coffee from all over the world that can then be used to prove the origin of coffee.” 

A producer stands with a coffee plant.
CoE recognizes farmers’ high-quality coffees at competitions around the world, including Finca Mama Cata in Guatemala, which earned third place at the 2020 Guatemala CoE.

Oritain uses forensic science to analyze the natural properties found in coffee, then uses that data to create an Origin Fingerprint for a particular coffee bean. Once established, this fingerprint is used to verify the authenticity of that coffee as it moves throughout the supply chain. With this technology, Oritain and ACE—according to the press release—will “aim to provide greater supply chain verification, providing commercial opportunities for coffee farmers, traders, and other companies operating in the coffee industry in the future.” The release continues, “The ability for coffee farmers to prove the origin of their respected coffee beans will allow them to recognize the true value for their coffee, with buyers safe in the knowledge that the coffee they are paying for is exactly the same coffee they receive.” 

The bed of a truck holding coffee cherries.
Ripe cherries are transported at Finca Agua y Manto; the farm’s coffee earned ninth place at the 2020 Costa Rica CoE.

ACE Executive Director Darrin Daniel says the partnership between ACE and Oritain reinforces many of the values shown in the Cup of Excellence program. “Traceability is critical to our program and has been the cornerstone of our mission,” he says. “Direct trade has its roots in Cup of Excellence, and our use of a third-party auditor in all the countries assures buyers that they are buying what they have tasted and that we can ensure complete transparency.” 

Darrin says that while the partnership can help verify the identity of CoE coffees, he also sees it affecting a wide range of CoE partners. “We felt it was a benefit for a larger part of the industry and our partner countries (some of whom have already been employing Oritain’s services) in order to verify the coffees’ regional identity,” he says. “If there was ever a question about where a coffee has come from, then Oritain would leverage its scientific ability to verify its place of origin.”

He adds that in the next couple of months ACE will begin sending coffees to Oritain to build its database of information—these coffees will include samples from the upcoming 2021 program, as well as coffees that were part of CoE’s 2020 competitions. Darrin adds, “We also encourage any farmer who has been in our competition to send their coffees as a benefit to them, as well as the institutions we serve in the countries where CoE operates.”

A scenic landscape of the mountains in El Salvador.
A sprawling view at Noruega farm in El Salvador, which placed 15th at the 2020 El Salvador CoE.

Darrin says the Oritain partnership will also benefit ACE members who purchased auctioned coffees through CoE. “They can choose to test their coffee if they want to share this verification with their own customers,” he says. 

You can view the latest on Cup of Excellence’s activities, including their 2021 calendar, at their website, and you can learn more about Oritain here

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.