Photo: Jonathan Meadows
By DARRIN DANIEL and GEOFF WATTS for Issue 2 of 25 Magazine
Cup of Excellence (COE) is an explosive catalyst for change that has unlocked the door to advancement for growers in every country it operates, forever altering the trajectory of both individual farmers and entire regions.
With 117 competitions conducted and 2,975 lots of coffee auctioned, the program has established itself as the premier coffee competition in the world, and brings with it a global audience of coffee buyers hungry for access to exceptional quality.
It is a device for discovering hidden potential and enabling coffee producers – regardless of the resources they possess or those they lack – to seize opportunity and catapult themselves onto the grandest of stages. It is a powerful magnet that pulls together farmers and roasters who, once connected, realize how much they can help each other.
This year, Cup of Excellence arrived in Peru.
Some places are so loaded with dormant potential their awakening unleashes a cascade of positive energy that alters the landscape around them. Peru is such a place.
Consider that there are over 120,000 growers cultivating coffee on the slopes of a massive stretch of the towering Andes mountain range covering nearly 20 degrees of latitude. Consider that most of this coffee is produced by farmers with minimal access to technical assistance and without much financial incentive to invest in quality, yet the coffees are sometimes so laden with sweetness that they make the sugarcane jealous.
Peru has the ingredients to become a world leader in coffee quality. Extreme altitudes, rich soils, and favorable climate conditions? Check. An abundance of heirloom varieties known for their exquisite taste attributes? Check. Motivated farmers with a desire to connect to the specialty market? Check this one twice and underline it.
Most of Peru’s coffee is produced by farmers with minimal access to technical assistance and without much financial incentive to invest in quality, yet the coffees are sometimes so laden with sweetness that they make the sugarcane jealous.
COE + Peru = Incendiary Potential
After nearly seven years spent laying the groundwork to bring the Cup of Excellence to Peru, the Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE) hosted its first edition of the competition in Lima in September in partnership with Central Café y Cacao and the Ministry of Agriculture, and with cooperation from the Junta Nacional del Café (National Council on Peruvian Coffee) and the Peru Tourism Bureau. Together with its partners and supporters, Cup of Excellence has started a new chapter, providing a platform for Peruvian farmers to showcase the spectacular quality they have been producing in relative obscurity.
The specialty marketplace paid close attention to the competition. ACE was flooded with requests to serve on the jury, and its members throughout the world giddily anticipated the grand coming-out party for Latin America’s still relatively unheralded specialty coffee giant. Over 300 coffees from all of Peru’s nine different regions were submitted. From September 11 to 15, international judges from 10 countries assessed the top coffees that passed through a rigorous screening from pre-selection to the national jury stage. By the time the competition ended, more than 9,000 individual cups of coffee were sampled and coffee produced by Juan Heredia Sánchez of Finca La Flor was named winner with a score of 92.25 points. The very best of the coffees entered in the competition will proceed to an online global auction in November.
DARRIN DANIEL is Executive Director and GEOFF WATTS is a board member of Alliance for Coffee Excellence.
Are you an SCA member? Claim your complimentary subscription to the print version of 25 Magazine at sca.coffee/signmeup. Not a member? Join now and support the mission of our nonprofit trade association at sca.coffee/join.