Three Cups of Excellence

Three Cups of Excellence

The Cup of Excellence (CoE) is the world’s most rigorous and prestigious coffee quality competition. With events in 10 different coffee-growing countries and an internet auction that exports winning lots to every major consuming market in the world, it is the only truly international coffee quality competition.  Forget about the gold standard, the CoE is the platinum standard for quality.

Collectively, our Direct Trade partners have more than 60 CoE awards among them.  But it has been several years since we have sourced a winning CoE lot.  Tomorrow we start taking pre-orders for the first of three winning lots from the most recent CoE competitions in Colombia and Peru, every one of them from a grower already part of the Intelligentsia Direct Trade network:

These release of these three stunning coffees signals our return to the CoE circuit and our continued commitment to source the world’s most extraordinary coffees.  It also reflects our belief that the CoE doesn’t just set the platinum standard among coffee quality competitions: it is also the one that delivers the most value to growers and roasters committed to building long-term trading relationships rooted in mutual pursuit of quality.

Intelligentsia, COE and Direct Trade

Our current single-origin menu is filled with coffees that can trace their origins to the CoE.   

From 2003-2007, as we were establishing the foundations of our Direct Trade program, Intelligentsia was one of the leading U.S. buyers of CoE coffees.  CoE was never just a reliable source for great coffees for us, but a reliable source of access to growers committed to producing great coffees year in and year out.  While some buyers may see CoE as coffee’s version of Tinder, we think of it more like a matchmaking service for parties more interested in committed long-term relationships.

As a result, many of our perennial single-origin favorites have been built around relationships originally brokered by the Cup of Excellence starting 15 years ago, including our La Tortuga Honduras (Finca La Tina), Itzamna Guatemala (La Soledad), Malacara (Los Inmortales El Salvador), Matalapa El Salvador and Los Delirios Organic Nicaragua.   Two of these farms — La Tina and Los Delirios — have taken home the top prize.  

The three winning lots we release this week represent more of the same: the purchase of specially selected lots from growers in our Direct Trade network to accelerate emerging relationships or deepen established ones.

Efraín Carhuallocllo Salvador of Peru is a member of the Café Solidario organization that grows our Rayos del Sol Peru single-origin offering.  We have been working with the organization’s members and leadership for the past three seasons to develop a shared understanding of quality and lay the groundwork to a long-term Direct Trade relationship.  After our second visit earlier this year, we became the single biggest buyer of Café Solidario coffee.  

For Franco Héctor José López, this purchase brings our relationships full-circle, since we originally connected through our participation in Colombia’s CoE competitions beginning in 2010.  La Mina has been a perennial part of our single-origin Colombia lineup, originally released as part of our Amigos de Buesaco offering.  Franco’s daughter Cielo recently joined the entire Intelligentsia Direct Trade family in San Francisco for our annual Extraordinary Coffee Workshop, reserved for our most valued trading partners.

His La Mina farm is in the same neighborhood as Ángel María López Loaiza’s Llano Redondo farm in the Buesaco region of Nariño. This year, lots from both farms are part of our annual Tres Santos Colombia lineup: our annual Direct Trade lots from both farms are scheduled to arrive in January.

Sourcing these extraordinary CoE lots in addition to the lots we normally source from these partners enables us to help celebrate their achievements and contribute to financial impact CoE has on them and their families.  To date, CoE has generated more than $55 million in premiums to growers, but that is only a part of its overall impact.  Over time, the benefits of sustained access of CoE winners to Direct Trade relationships and the expansion of the specialty sectors in CoE origins is exponentially greater.  According to an impact assessment commissioned by ACE and published by the non-profit TechnoServe in 2015, when the value of expanded access CoE was $137 million in Brazil alone.

These are among the very best coffees you will drink this year.  They are also part of a system that creates powerful incentives for quality, supports the establishment of mutually beneficial long-term tradition relationships and drives real financial impact at the farm level.

Visit our single-origin coffees page to pre-order these exceptional lots before they sell out.  Orders received by Thursday, 12/14 at 3:00 pm will be roasted and shipped that day and arrive in time for Christmas.  In the (unlikely) event we have any left after that, we will repeat this fulfillment plan weekly until we run out.