10 things you should know about the Cup of Excellence

To celebrate National Nonprofit Day, on 17 August, Cup of Excellence organiser, Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE), shared 10 things the coffee community should know about the coffee quality competition.

1. The founders
The first competition in 1999 was called Best of Brazil, executed as an experimental program under the Gourmet Project, started by Susie Spindler, George Howell, the Brazil Specialty Coffee Association and the Specialty Coffee Association of America. A group of Hewlett Packard PhD auction experts helped design the CoE auction protocols.

2. Nonprofit life
Cup of Excellence is a program run by the nonprofit ACE, founded in 2002.

Small team
Cup of Excellence/ACE has five full-time employees, two part-time employees, and two office dogs.

More than a competition
There’s more to Cup of Excellence than competitions. Cup of Excellence also has a training and education channel where sensory evaluation and other courses are taught globally in English, Spanish, and Chinese. There is also an ACE lab and Taza knowledge series program.

Early adopters
ACE has 16 Lifetime members who each donated US$10,000 to help kickstart the program.

Cup of Excellence countries
Since inception, the Cup of Excellence has been held in 12 countries – and the ACE is working on more.

Members around the world
ACE currently has members in 40 countries.

A unique cupping form
Cup of Excellence has its own distinct cupping form used to help find the world’s best coffees. The form is designed for competition and gives more room to evaluate higher scoring coffees. Cleanliness and sweetness of the coffee is also evaluated as opposed to just checking a box that says a coffee is sweet and clean.

For the farmers
The Cup of Excellence competition process is free and open to all farmers, giving thousands of farmers the tools needed to improve their coffees, experiment with varieties and processing, build economic relationships with the marketplace, and financially motivate farmers and their families to stay on the farm. In fact, the ACE says young educated people are returning to the farm with degrees in agronomy, marketing, and sensory analysis. For a sustainable coffee industry, especially one fraught with climate change and economic hardship, it is critical that there is a financial motivation for innovation to remain on the farm.

The competition process is no slouch
The Cup of Excellence competition involves six rounds of cupping, including a national jury and international jury phase. All coffees must score 86 or more points from a possible 100 to advance to the next phase of the competition. The top 30 coffees advance to the Cup of Excellence auction, if the coffee scores an 87 or more.

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