October 29, 2018

Discovering talented producers: The Cup of Excellence competition, Honduras 2013

First Published - October 22, 2013 (By Steven, Co-Founder)
We were delighted and excited to have two Unionistas on the international judging panel for the Honduras Cup of Excellence (CoE) earlier this year.

We are now roasting one of the finalist coffees which we bid for in the online auction – Cristal microlot 13 – which you can find out more about here.


Defining Excellence

The Alliance for Coffee Excellence established the Cup of Excellence to promote coffee quality in the countries where it works. The prestigious award generally represents the best coffee at that particular time from a given country.

Any farmer can choose to participate by presenting a particular lot into the Cup of Excellence Programme.  Each coffee is rigorously cupped on its quality by a team of National judges. If the coffee gets through these first rounds and scores above 85 it will go through to the international jury. At this stage, a further and final cupping takes place, with those coffees deemed to be of the highest quality ranked, by taste score, ready for an international online auction.

Prices at these auctions can reach around USD $45/lb, with the highest bidders often being from coffee roasters in Japan, China and other Asian countries.

CoE – best for buyers

The CoE helps those farmers who are quality-driven to access new markets, as roasters and green coffee buyers recognize CoE as a roadmap to find new sources of quality speciality coffee. It rewards growers for focusing on quality and the winning beans are especially prized in countries such as Japan.  It’s a great way for buyers to see familiar faces – farmers who’ve taken part year on year, plus newcomers who are excited by CoE.

Top Dollar

During the COE auction, it’s common for coffees to make record sales prices. This not only boosts the grower’s profile, it provides much needed funds that they generally re-invest in their farms, continually raising the bar.

Judges participating in the cupping,  many of whom are experienced buyers or roasters, have the opportunity to bid on the lots in the auction. Steven and Jeremy have been jury members in the past and found some tasty coffees, as well as outstanding producers. It’s also exhilarating with stiff competition bidding for the most coveted lots!

A palette of flavours from Honduras

Oli, (Green Coffee Evangelist) and Pascale  (Sustainable Relationship Manager) were in Honduras during the celebrations of CoE 10th year in the country and was honoured to participate with the International Jury:

“Any CoE programme will be very interesting to a cupper,” says Oli.  A country often has multiple areas producing coffee, each with a particular flavour profile and Honduras was no exception. The areas were Copan, Opalaca, Montecillos, Comayagua, Agalta and El Paraiso.  “We tasted coffees with chocolate and caramel notes and citric acidity. Some with red berry apple acidity, others with tropical fruit flavours. Some coffees had interesting creamy green tea-like flavours that were very sweet and balanced while others were very floral.

Many factors affect the flavour from the growing conditions, varietal of the coffee trees,  altitude and rain fall and the way in which they were picked and the processing methods used,  We could taste the impact of these factors on beans from the area throughout the week of cupping.”


Why did we bid for Cristal?

Oli tells us: “For me essentially it came down to the cup profile. It was clean and balanced with a lovely soft silky mouthfeel. Roasted apple, honey and  cinnamon milk chocolate flavour with  gooseberry and sweet tropical fruits on the finish.

One of the things I specifically enjoy in a coffee is the taste sensation of Umami. For me this coffee displayed this perfectly and the umami note balanced well with the fruit notes, chocolate, cinnamon and grape-like acidity.

Meeting the farmers was also very special and you can see how important the COE programme is to them. It raises the profile of quality coffee and introduces them to international markets and opportunities. Honduras has faced the difficulties caused by leaf rust and with fewer resources than many other countries in Central America, yet it’s a testament to all involved to see the quality and flavours, and justifiably high scores and prices that were achieved in this year’s auction.”

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