The Cup of Excellence is an annual coffee growers competition held to identify the highest quality coffees produced around the world. It is organised by the Alliance for Coffee Excellence with the winning coffees sold at internet auction. Dubbed the ‘Oscars of the coffee world’, the competition have been held in Brazil, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Burundi, Rwanda, Colombia and Bolivia.
In the course of the competition, each coffee is tested at least five times with only those coffees that get continuously high scores progressing. What makes this special is that it enables roasting houses to identify the small farm holdings that are producing extraordinary coffee. It is the explosion of interest in coffee that has provided farmers an incentive to grow specialty coffee, with the Cup of Excellence program providing them a valuable marketplace.
Single Origin Roasters have been participating in the global Cup of Excellence program since 2010. Coffee Buyer Wendy De Jong visits the farms in addition to being a judge on the Cup of Excellence panels. Recently, the top ten coffees from Burundi and Rwanda in Africa were on show at a Single O cupping. Hosted by Wendy and Ed Strachan (Head Roaster, pictured below), we started by smelling the grounds dry to discern the various fragrances. Water was then poured, whereby we smelt the aromas by ‘breaking the crust’; essentially stirring and sniffing the brew. Lastly, we slurp the coffee to coat the tongue and reach the retronasal receptors at the back of the mouth.
What is impressive is how many notes—everything from the classic cocos and caramels and to the more exotic fruits, jams and flowers—are picked up by the Single O team and the other participants. While this level of coffee nerdishness is not for everyone, it is super impressive to see the Single O team’s dedication to their craft; just one of the reasons they are consistently rated as one of the top ten coffees in Sydney.