Nicaragua, Esteli, May 22nd, 2009
This being the 10th year of Cup of Excellence, throughout the week at the Nicaragua competition, much reference was made to how the programme took the first tentative steps to launch off the ground over a decade ago. The first format of the Cup of Excellence started back in 1999, in Brazil. Initially it was an approach to let the coffee world know that Brazil had the capacity to produce coffees that were just as valuable as some of the more well known speciality origins that commanded a price premium. The auction, for this first competition was a wild success and evolved into a second programme in 2000 with a larger International Jury participating.
The following year, as the programme was still fragile, the first competition to be held in Guatemala, even farmers didn’t believe they would even receive a premium so they had pre-sold their coffee, just in case!
So from these delicate beginnings the programme has now expanded to El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, Colombia, Bolivia, Nicaragua and of course Rwanda and has gone on to create the most stringent selection process known in the coffee industry. Described as the “Oscars for Coffee” the Cup of Excellence programme has become respected around the world.
In 2002, Nicaragua was the 3rd producer country to commit to Cup of Excellence, and now, ten years on I was privileged to reprise my role in Nicaragua 02, and participate again as a member of the International Jury in the Nicaragua 2009 competition, billed as the “50th Competition Event”. From the ground that has been covered it’s possible to see what a significant impact the event has had on the way specialty coffee is now perceived by producers.
The premise behind Cup of Excellence is to create a pinnacle of high quality coffee that rewards farmers directly. This creates a momentum and over successive years, with farmers putting more care and attention to the production of their coffee, submitting lots to competition, with the hope of winning, there would be an overall increase in the quality of coffee produced by an origin country. Indeed, this premise is most notable in Guatemala and Brazil where coffee is consistently recognized to be of increasingly higher quality as the same farms consistently get their coffees into the finals.
Head Judge, Silvio Leite presided over the event and turned in a flawless performance. We cupped 61 different lots that were selected by the national jury. From these, the final 26 made it into the winners enclose, and on the last day, we ranked the top 10. Five coffees scored greater than 95/100.
At the evening awards ceremony, all of the 61 farmers, whose coffee was selected by the National jury for entry into the Cup of Excellence were given high praise indeed.
The winning lot was produced by Maria Amparo Castellano Paguaga, of Finca La Esperanza She deserved the recognition for producing an exemplary coffee. Second place was Jose Efraim Espinales, Finca El Recuerdo and both top places are from de Dipilto in Northern Nicaragua near the Honduras border. The on-line auction is 2nd July.