The Cup of Excellence (COE) is a competition in which producers have their coffee graded and ranked according to the quality of their coffee. High-ranking shipments are then auctioned off to the highest bidder worldwide through Internet auctions.
What is a Cup of Excellence?
One of the most prestigious coffee competitions in the world is called The Cup of Excellence.
Established in 1999, it has been dubbed the “Oscars of the coffee business” and aims to highlight the toil of growers. Since then, it has developed into a worldwide celebration, with variations taking place in a number of nations that produce coffee, including Brazil, Ethiopia, and El Salvador.
Coffees are rated and ranked in the competition based on quality. The top deals are chosen through a thorough judging process, and they are subsequently sold at an online auction.
Here, they frequently bring in some of the highest values ever recorded in the market. For instance, the 25 winning coffees from the 2021 Colombia Cup of Excellence sold for a then-record average price per pound of $30.79.
The Cup of Excellence is a topic of fascination and curiosity for specialty roasters. It provides a clear picture of both what consumers are purchasing and the direction the market is headed.
All domestic producers are eligible to submit proposals for the COE competition. Coffee samples are evaluated by a panel of national and international judges over the course of several rounds after being submitted.
All samples are examined by a panel of judges from the country of origin during the pre-selection phase. The top 150 samples move on to the national competition. The top 40 coffees are chosen for the international stage by the National Jury as it continues to evaluate the samples.
Then, the international jurors conduct three rounds of cupping to rank and select the coffees with the greatest scores to receive the Cup of Excellence. The top 30 coffees move on to an online auction where the highest bidder wins the coffee.
Before the winning lots are determined, up to 9,000 cups of coffee must be tasted and analyzed by a team of highly knowledgeable and experienced cuppers.
All coffee samples submitted for competition evaluation are subject to a stringent scoring process by COE. It uses a special form of cupping that is distinct from the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) procedure. This gives additional space for rating coffees with higher scores.
All coffees must receive ratings of 86 points or above out of a possible 100 in order to move on from the pre-selection round and into the national week.
Any samples with flaws are disqualified before moving on to the international stage, which has the same requirements. The top 30 coffees must receive a score of 87 or above to advance to the COE auction. The prized “Presidential Award” is presented to contestants with 90+ points.
Only registered Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE) members may participate in the COE online auction. Buyers have three minutes to submit their bids on the prize-winning lots on the designated date and time.
In order to make educated purchase selections, buyers can also order sample sets prior to the auction.
Along with the auction, the ACE and M-Cultivo recently collaborated to establish Brazil Select. This makes it possible for customers from the US, the UK, and Canada to purchase COE entries that received a score of 86 or more in the national round but were not selected for the international round.
How come roasters should sell Cup of Excellence coffee?
The Cup of Excellence award is one of the greatest kinds of praise for coffee manufacturers. Offering COE coffee is a clear demonstration of a commitment to quality because a group of knowledgeable judges has validated its worth and excellence.
Additionally, offering a coffee that has generated a lot of discussion might aid roasters in standing out in a crowded market. Customers have something to talk about, and it provides them with another reason to buy coffee.
It’s common for buyers of the lot or roasters who sell COE coffee to receive media prominence from COE auctions. Even the ACE’s website leads customers to roasters who sell COE coffee and are ACE members.
Additionally, participating in COE enables roasters to forge strong bonds with producers. For instance, through its involvement with COE throughout the years, Maruyama Coffee has developed numerous direct trade partnerships with farmers.
Coffee competitions and auctions have led to many prosperous trade ties, according to Sasa Sestic, the World Barista Champion and founder of Project Origin Best Of auctions.