2021 Laos Coffee Competition sees one cooperative win four categories

Laos Coffee

The Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) has announced the winners of the 2021 Laos Coffee Competition, which was the first event of its kind to take place in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

The Jing Jhai Coffee Coop won top marks across the categories of Best Washed Arabic, Best Honey Arabica, Best Natural Arabica, and Best Arabica overall. Bolaven Farm scored highest in the category of Best Robusta.

“I was amazed and intrigued by the range of flavours presented within these coffees from Laos. Additionally, they consistently presented a level of quality I had not associated with this growing region,” says Aaron Alvis, Supervisor in Global Coffee Quality at Starbucks.

“Aromas of baking cinnamon, wine, red fruit, cardamom, and brown sugar accompanied flavour notes including florals, tobacco, honey, elegant grapefruit, and vanilla. This was a truly special sensory experience, and I am grateful for the opportunity to access and share my experience with these coffees.”

The overall winner of the competition was the Jing Jhai Coffee Coop, which scored 85.35 points, followed by Dao Coffee Factory with 84.9 points. The Jing Jhai Coffee Coop also won third and fourth place, with 84.85 points and 84.38 points respectively. Bolaven Farms placed fifth with a score of 84.31.

“Lao Robusta Farmers are celebrating, for their Fine Robusta has been validated by international judges,” says Sam Say of Bolaven Farms Proceso Puro Circular Coffees.

The event’s cupping panel was comprised of international judges from across the United States and Switzerland. CQI also worked with local authorities to transfer the coffees to the US, where they were roasted and sent to each judge with water treatments and instructions.

These judges received these samples “blind” and returned the results to the CQI for compilation.

“Best practices for a coffee competition would be for the evaluations to take place locally,” says Todd Arnette, Manager of CQI’s Quality Evaluation Program. “As is the case with countless other activities, COVID had a different plan. To ensure a consistent and unbiased evaluation the following steps were taken.”

These steps included:
• Ensuring a secure collection location and process was used in Laos,
• Upon the head judge receiving the samples, all were evaluated with the Specialty Coffee Association’s Arabica Green Grade Defect Guide and the CQI Robusta Green Grade Defect Standards,
• The samples were all roasted to their respective Sample Roast Protocol for Arabica or Robusta and cupped by the head judge for an initial assessment of Specialty Arabica or Fine Robusta status,
• A larger volume of samples was roasted and packaged for shipment to the judges,
• The head judge received the same coffees as the judge’s panels, and
• A grind particle size sample, a water specification and a cupping protocol were included.

“[It was completed] as best as reasonably possible, all judges had the same coffees and cupping infrastructure resulting in a fair and consistent evaluation of the Lao Coffees,” says Arnette. “All cupping scores were entered into the CQI Q Grader Calibration Matrix for statistical analysis.”

This competition is part of the United States Department of Agriculture funded project, called Creating Linkages for Expanded Agricultural Networks Project.

This was implemented by Winrock International, who together with the Lao Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Lao Department of Agriculture, are working together to improve the agricultural sector.

The competition was also supported by L ‘Agence Française de Développement and the Swiss Development and Cooperation.

The Coffee Quality Institute has organised competitions like these in other emerging markets, seeing great excitement and success. Green coffee competitions like these are designed to promote interest and market connections, which has already been seen through the judges who did taste the Lao PDR coffees.

“What better testimony of quality is there than a cupper’s desire to buy a quality coffee and serve it to their customers?” says Judge Mané Alves.

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