The Intelligentsia Extraordinary Coffee Competition: Best in Inventory

Direct Trade , Events & Collaborations , Sourcing
blog_1

Last month, we gathered our entire supply chain in San Francisco for the annual Intelligentsia Extraordinary Coffee Workshop. The event itself is nothing new: this is the ninth year in a row we have convened our Direct Trade partners from around the world for ECW, a week of talking and tasting coffee together with the growers, millers and exporters in our supply chain. What was new for 2017 was this: the Intelligentsia Extraordinary Coffee Competition.

A Coffee Battle Royale

We invited all our Direct Trade partners to send us just two kilos of the very best coffee they could produce. We received plenty of special submissions just for the occasion. Since many growers in our supply chain had already sent us their best coffees of the season, we put all the special submissions we received up against every one of the single-origin coffees already in our inventory. The end result was something like a coffee battle royale: nearly 60 coffees from 13 countries in the ring, all competing for the title Best in Show.

There were lots of other prizes based on different criteria, including geography (Best of the Americas, Best of Africa, Best Northern Hemisphere, Best Southern Hemisphere), farm size (Best Smallholder Coffee) and cup profile (Fruit Basket Award, Sugar Cane Award and Clarity Award). And we created a Best in Inventory Award so we could celebrate the most extraordinary coffee on our menu.

The Rules

The coffees were randomly assigned three-digit numerical codes and then randomly reassigned three-letter alphabetical codes as part of a double-blind procedure that kept nearly everyone involved in the process from unlocking the identities of the coffees until scoring was completed. The action progressed through multiple rounds, with competitors gradually eliminated along the way. The opening round took place at the cupping lab in our Chicago Roasting Works with a core Quality Control team that evaluated every sample using the Intelligentsia cupping form and narrowed the field of nearly 60 entries to 10 finalists based on overall score. Each entrant was eligible to send only one lot to the finals to maximize the diversity of the profiles on the 10-top table that would be cupped at ECW. Samples of each of those 10 coffees were transported to San Francisco by our Vice President Geoff Watts in advance of ECW in a locked briefcase that was handcuffed to his wrist. For real.

There, the panel for the finals consisted of our entire Direct Trade supply chain: growers, millers, exporters, importers, green coffee buyers, roasters and baristas. In keeping with the event’s focus on technology, the finals were scored on smartphones using the Cropster Cup app and a customized form specifically developed for the event by our friends at Cropster. That form included just four categories: sweetness, acidity, clarity and overall score. The three subcategories were selected as a kind of calibration and part of the joint sensory exercises that are an important part of every ECW event. These are the categories that carry the most weight as we evaluate coffees for purchase, and we wanted to underscore the relationship between these specific categories and our perception of overall quality. The results of that exercise were unambiguous: the coffee that had the highest overall score also had the highest score in each of these subcategories.  To determine a winner, the overall scores from both the Chicago cuppings and the finals at ECW in San Francisco were combined and averaged.

Best (and Second-Best) in Show

Best in Show was a stunning and beautiful Gesha varietal from the Gesha Village Estate in southwestern Ethiopia. It was a lot carefully assembled for purposes of the competition and not available for purchase. A close second, and Best in Show runner-up, was a coffee from our inventory:, a complex, crisp, clean coffee from Kenya that had been waiting patiently in the wings for its turn to fly on our menu under the Kunga Maitu banner.

We are delighted to make that coffee available to you as a special release: the ECW Best in Inventory Award Kunga Maitu Kenya. This outsized coffee represents the best of Intelligentsia. With huge flavors of candied grapefruit, chamomile and clove, we think you will understand why.  The ECW Best in Inventory Award Kunga Maitu Kenya is available now for purchase HERE, nd we are featuring it on the menus of all of our Coffeebars nationwide from Saturday, October 14 to Saturday, October 21.

The full list of winners from the inaugural Intelligentsia Extraordinary Coffee Competition follows:

 

Best in Show
Rachel Samuel Overton and Adam Overton
Gesha Village Coffee Estate, Ethiopia
washed Original Gesha

Best in Inventory
Intelligentsia Kunga Maitu Kenya
Kainamui lot
washed SL-28, SL-34, Riuru 11

Best of Africa
Rachel Samuel Overton and Adam Overton
Gesha Village Coffee Estate, Ethiopia
washed Gesha

Best of the Americas
Cielo y Nilson López
Fincal El Gallineral, Colombia
honey Geisha

Best Northern Hemisphere
Rachel Samuel Overton and Adam Overton
Gesha Village Coffee Estate, Ethiopia
washed Gesha

Best Southern Hemisphere
Mariana and Carlos Iturralde
Finca Takesi, Bolivia
washed Geisha (coming soon to the Intelligentsia menu!)

Best Smallholder Coffee
Mary Maina Manyeki
Manyeki Estates, Kenya
washed SL-28, SL-34

Fruit Basket Award
Rachel Samuel Overton and Adam Overton
Gesha Village Coffee Estate, Ethiopia
washed Gesha

Sugar Cane Award
Rachel Samuel Overton and Adam Overton
Gesha Village Coffee Estate, Ethiopia
washed Gesha

Clarity Award
Rachel Samuel Overton and Adam Overton
Gesha Village Coffee Estate, Ethiopia
washed Gesha

 

Posted in Direct Trade, Events & Collaborations, Sourcing