The Ernesto Illy Award closes the gap between producers and consumers, and honors farmers for excellence in quality.
The United Nations is where international treaties are made, some of the most important conversations about diplomacy happen, and where celebrities and activists alike speak to important issues such as feminism or the environment. However, the UN played host to the first ever Ernesto Illy International Coffee Award, which was held in the Delegates Dining Room in the UN building in New York. The award is meant to, œrecognize the coffee growers’ commitment to quality and sustainability, emphasizing the importance of working hand-in-hand with them, while also pursuing the company’s dream to offer the greatest coffee to the world, illycaffé representatives stated in a press release.
The awards ceremony honored coffee farmers specifically and give them recognition for their work and commitment to quality and sustainability. Nine countries were represented, all from countries that illy uses in their signature blend, with three farmers from each country competing for top honors amongst their compatriots and for an overall title as well. The winner of the top prize was Ahmed Legesse from Ethiopia, although he faced stiff competition from delegates from Costa Rica, Brazil, and Honduras (which took second in the competition).
The winners were decided by a panel of judges that included coffee professionals and leaders in a variety of other industries. Leading the panel were Mark Pendergrast, author of Uncommon Grounds, and illy Quality director David Brussa. They described the coffee from Ahmed as, œa special coffee with a mild, delicate aroma and a unique perfume with distinctive floral notes of jasmine and a hint of citrus fruit.
Prior to the awards ceremony, Andrea Illy, current chairman of the company, hosted a conference highlighting the effects of climate change on farmers. He talked about what he called a ˜Global Arabica Plan,’ with the intention of inciting both public and private corporations to actively participate in the fight and recognize the risks that global warming has on our coffee farmers.
Ernesto Illy, founder of the seemingly ubiquitous and certainly global eponymous coffee brand, has been influential in transforming the quality of coffee. Ernesto’s son, Andrea, noted that, œexactly 25 years ago, my father ¦created the Brazilian Quality Award, which triggered the transformation of Brazil into a high quality coffee producer. The Ernesto Illy Foundation, from which this award takes its name, doesn’t just honor high performers in the coffee industry, but works hard to improve the lives of coffee farmers and create stronger ties between producers and buyers. Some of the other works of the foundation include a master’s program in Coffee Sciences and Economics and awarding the Ernesto Illy Trieste Science Prize.
During the event, Andrea recounted what he called the ˜three virtues of coffee’: pleasure, health, and sustainability. He also noted that the coffee chain is cyclical ”if customers are informed about their coffees and understand the work that drives quality, farmers will have more resources to continue making better quality and creating positive outcomes for themselves and their communities. With this award, illy hopes to close the distance between consumers and farmers and connect each member of the coffee chain closer together.