Winning the Cup of Excellence: A Premier Coffee Competition

Winning the Cup of Excellence is a tough national competition that levels up the appreciation of world-class coffees. It aims to continuously expand the discovery and recognition not only of the excellent coffees, but high-quality farmers worldwide as well. Every year, several countries hold a national competition in order to uncover and auction the highest quality specialty coffees from that country. Afterwards, they will be brought to the international market.

How did Cup of Excellence Start?

The Cup of Excellence (CoE) has been running for over 20 years. Its first competition held in 1999 was called Best of Brazil. Under the Gourmet Project, it was executed as an experimental program started by Susie Spindler, George Howell, the Brazil Specialty Coffee Association, and the Specialty Coffee Association of America. The group of Hewlett Packard PhD auction experts even helped the CoE to design its auction protocols.

Founded in 2002, the nonprofit Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE) runs the CoE program. It comprises of a family of global coffee lovers supporting sustainable specialty coffee. Since then, it has been well known to pioneer integrity and transparency with an unmatched level of scrutiny in the specialty coffee industry. ACE auctions unique coffees while recognizing and financially rewarding the farmers for their hard work and effort. Coffee farmers are given the tools they will need to improve the economic model of their farms. ACE creates and sets worldwide quality selection standards and builds bridges between roasters and the farmers for over 20 years.

There are different membership levels you can subscribe to in ACE. Regardless of the level, all Alliance for Coffee Excellence members can get a welcome packet with the 2022 ACE Magazine, a personalized membership certificate, and more. Become an ACE member now!

The Cup of Excellence Competition

For some, they call it the ‘Olympics for Coffee’ or the ‘Oscars for Coffee.’ The Cup of Excellence competition is free and open to all the coffee farmers. Thousands of farmers are given the tools they need in order to prepare for the competition. Such are improving their coffees, experimenting with varieties and processing, and building economic relationships with the marketplace. At the same time, CoE financially motivate the coffee farmers and their families to stay on the farm.

The competition is very meticulous that it involves six rounds of cupping with an evaluation conducted by a national/domestic jury and an international jury. Coffee evaluation is conducted by using the Cup of Excellence cupping form. Specifically designed by George Howell, the co-founder of CoE, this gives more room to evaluate higher scoring coffees. Also, the jury tastes the cleanliness and sweetness of the coffee as part of the evaluation.  Coffees must be able to score 86 or more from a possible score of 100 to advance to the next round. Then, the top 30 coffees with a score of 87 or more will advance to the CoE auction.

Winning the Cup of Excellence competition means dealing with the high-standard processes. 300 entries for the competition yield an average of 9,000 cups to be evaluated, where every ‘Top 10’ coffee is cupped at least 120 times. The processes being performed in this competition ensure an elite top-quality consistent coffee to enter the CoE auction.

Relevance of Winning the Cup of Excellence Competition to the Coffee Farmers

The Cup of Excellence, including a global family of coffee lovers, pursued in supporting the coffee farmers. The support started since 1999 with an aim to make a positive impact on the way people enjoy coffee too. Together with the auctions of ACE, CoE program has set the standard for the increased premiums that farmers have been able to receive for their top-notch coffees. This program continues building a much transparent system and gives farmers the tools needed in improving the economic model of their farms and how they get paid. The Cup of Excellence helps farmers get motivated and incentivized in several ways. For instance, the funds from winning the auction bid, the expansion of coffee in new markets worldwide, and future direct trade relationships. Coffee farmers are given the opportunity for a recognition and financial reward for their hard work and effort.

What is Sensory Education Training?

For over 20 years, Sensory Education Training (SET) has been a gateway to CoE knowledge. Students see Sensory Education events as a great opportunity to improve their sensory skills and technical skills. They get to learn the process of evaluating coffee with a greater accuracy, consistency, and confidence. At the same time, they could build relationships among fellow members of the global coffee community.

Sensory Education Training classes are spearheaded by official CoE head judges and SET instructors. Several are invited to join these four-day intensive trainings including:

  • Roasters
  • Retailers
  • Coffee produces
  • Importers
  • Exporters
  • Coffee Enthusiasts

What are the upcoming Sensory Educational Training Courses?

What are the Inclusions of Sensory Educational Training?

The Sensory Education Trainings include:

  • CoE protocol introduction
  • Instruction on CoE Cupping Sensory Score Sheet
  • Flavor recognition
  • Acid profiling
  • Calibration
  • Multiple cupping sessions with lively discussion

Origin countries will hold a five-day event and include a group tour of coffee farms and mills. Through these field trips, you can actually see the picking or processing of coffees. On the other hand, the four-day event in other countries may come with self-guided tour of cafes or roasters provided by the local host. Once completed, all the participants of this program receive a certificate of participation on the final day.

How to Join the Coffee Auctions?

The winning coffees from the COE competition and the National Winner finalists are sent to the Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE). Then, the ACE members can purchase coffee samples and bid on them during the online coffee auctions. Join Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE) now and become a member!

A team of expert coffee technicians with the best technical support & services on site.