Cup of Excellence Relocating Winning Coffees Amid Strife in Nicaragua

The COE Nicaragua auction has been moved up to June 13, and award-winning coffees are currently at the port in Nicaragua and expected to arrive in Oakland, Calif., on June 29.


Photos courtesy of Alliance for Coffee Excellence 

In the second week of April, the Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE) hosted its 2018 Cup of Excellence (COE) Nicaragua competition. The successful event crowned five 90+ coffees and recognized many farmers for their outstanding coffees. The next week, however, violence erupted in Nicaragua that has grown worse in the weeks since.

A press release issued Thursday by ACE summarizes the recent events: “The week after the 2018 Nicaraguan Cup of Excellence in Matagalpa, April 18, a number of protesting students were killed by Nicaraguan authorities in Managua. Since then, the situation in Nicaragua has escalated. Over 120 people have been killed and the country is experiencing a national catastrophe. Food shortages, road blockades, and overall political strife have surfaced throughout the entire country. There have been multiple human rights violations and the country has nearly come to a total standstill, according to multiple reports close to the situation.”

In the wake of these events, ACE and ACEN (the Specialty Coffee Association of Nicaragua) have prioritized the exportation of the award-winning coffees from the Nicaragua COE to the Annex Warehouse in San Leandro, Calif. While ACE typically keeps COE-winning coffees in the origin country until after each country’s auction and ships them directly to winning bidders around the world, the organization made the decision to move all the coffees to North America promptly.

“We’ve heard multiple reports that exporters have had trouble getting their coffee out of the country,” says ACE Executive Director Darrin Daniel. “In the interest of the producers receiving prompt payment for the winning auction lots and buyers to receive prompt delivery of their coffee, we felt this is the correct decision based on recent circumstances.”

To ensure the exportation could happen amid the current challenges in Nicaragua, ACE partnered with Canada-based importer RGC Coffee and Nicaragua-based exporter Peralta Coffees to secure a vessel and move the coffee to the port. Given the roadblocks and security concerns, the vacuum-sealed coffee was transported to the port in the early morning hours and, as of Thursday, was in Corinto awaiting departure. “Barring an act of God, the coffee is secure and will leave for California on June 11,” Darrin says.

The Alliance for Coffee Excellence worked with RGC Coffee and Peralta Coffees to move the winning coffees from the 2018 Cup of Excellence Nicaragua to North America.

With the coffee soon to be on the water, ACE has moved up the auction date for the 2018 Cup of Excellence Nicaragua to June 13 from its original date of June 19. Darrin says the date was moved in part because of conflicting auctions on and around June 19, but also so that farmers can get paid a little sooner for their coffees. “Producers have been patiently waiting,” Darrin say. “They’re worried they wouldn’t be able to make money off these coffees if we couldn’t get them out of the country. Now after the auctions we can get payments to the farmers as soon as possible.”

With the coffees landing in California later this month, ACE is making an appeal to North American roasters to support Nicaragua by bidding on the coffees, which will be considerably cheaper for North Americans because the coffees have already traveled to their part of the world. “Some of the best coffees in the world are going to be sitting in Oakland,” says Darrin. “We’d like to see some companies that are not in our membership step up in support of Nicaragua.”

The 2018 Cup of Excellence Nicaragua online auction has been moved up and will now take place June 13.

Darrin adds that while he’s relieved that ACE appears to have gotten the coffees out of Nicaragua, the organization is heartbroken about what is transpiring there. “People we’re close to have had to go underground for their own safety,” Darrin says. “This is a severe situation, and the coffee industry is directly impacted. Our job is to make sure the farmers get paid and they have a sense of stability, but this is a very serious situation that needs the world’s attention.”

For more information on the events unfolding in Nicaragua, read continued coverage from The New York Times, The Guardian, and other news outlets.

About Chris Ryan 261 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.