Ethiopia Cup of Excellence auction raises more than US$1million for coffee producers

The 2020 Ethiopia Cup of Excellence (COE) auction broke records, with total sales of US$1,348,690 topping the previous record of $830,245 from El Salvador in 2011.

The El Salvador auction had 42 lots for sale, while the COE Ethiopia auction included only 28, achieving a record-high average price of US$28 per pound.

The top-scoring coffee in the 2020 COE Ethiopia competition sold at US$185.10 per pound, or US$407 per kilogram. The Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE) says this is the highest price ever recorded for an Ethiopian coffee.

Half of the lot was purchased by Maruyama Coffee Co from Japan and its buying group, consisting of Saza Coffee, Cometeer, Goodboybob Coffee, Difference Coffee, and Harrods. The other half of the lot was purchased by Sarutahiko Coffee Inc from Japan.

Its producer, Nigusie Gemeda of Sidama, was stunned to see the price paid for his coffee.

“I have been a coffee farmer for a long time, but I am just learning the value of our coffee. I am so happy with the result. Never could I have imagined coffee would have sold with such price. Now I know there is a reason for coffee to be called the green gold,” he says.

The 168 registered buyers from 33 countries bid 4137 times for more than five hours to secure the sought-after winning coffees. The second-from-the-top coffees coming from Rumudamo Coffee in Sidama, had a total of 902 bids, another record number in the competition history.

“It’s a powerful lesson and beyond what we could have had imagined. We sell our coffee for less than a dollar at times and it’s been discouraging for growers.

Now we see there is a market we can tap into if we can guarantee the quality,” says Ato Bogale Woledehana, General Manager of Rumudamo Coffee.

The United States company Coffee at Intelligentsia won out in the competitive bid, paying a price of US$108 per pound.

“Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee and widely considered to be the producer of the most delicious coffees in the world, yet many of its farmers are among the poorest. This auction sends a message of hope that not only validates the investments – and associated risks – in quality but also serves as a reminder that the quality movement is here to stay” said Geoff Watts, Vice President of Coffee at Intelligentsia.

“Farmers are the heart, soul, and backbone of the specialty coffee industry but rarely get the recognition, or more importantly the economic reward, that their work deserves. At a time when the quality coffee movement is facing severe existential threats and the world is in turmoil, it is especially invigorating to see the Cup of Excellence pull off this event and deliver such a windfall economic boost to the people who need it most.”

The 35 out-grower farmers that supply coffee to Rumudamo are also excited about these prices.

“None of us had heard of a coffee that sold at this amount. It’s a surprise for everybody,” says Ato Bogale. Rumudamo had another winning coffee in the auction that sold at US$35.10 per pound.

The third highest price went to Testi Trading at US$66.60 per pound, sold to Black Gold Coffee Co from Taiwan. “We are pleased with the result,” says Ato Faysel Abdosh, Founder and Manager of Testi.

Buyers also expressed excitement to be part of the first Ethiopian auction.

“It’s an honour to participate in the auction and especially in Ethiopia’s first auction. It feels monumental and we hope this becomes a tradition for years to come,” says Jon Allen of Onyx Coffee Lab in the US. The lab bought coffee from smallholder coffee grower Gare Ware Jilo of Oromia at US$21 per pound.

The selected exporter for the Cup of Excellence coffees has finished cleaning and vacuum packing all lots, and nearly 20,000 kilograms of coffee is ready for export to the highest bidders in 33 countries.

“This shows what happens when we invest in quality,” says Dr Adugna Debela, Director General of the Ethiopian Coffee and Tea Authority. “We have succeeded in the faces of challenging times. We had to make difficult decisions and bold moves to make the competition going despite the pandemic. Congratulations to all of our farmers.”

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For details on auction results, visit

Image: Testi Trading

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