This past Saturday we reached what I consider to be a milestone of sorts. We secured and roasted our first Cup of Excellence winning coffee, a Rwandan from the Kayanza washing station that placed #17 in the 2011 Rwandan Cup of Excellence competition. All week I've been enjoying the depth and complexity of a coffee unlike any I've ever tasted.
I consider this significant for several reasons. For starters, getting our hands on Cup of Excellence wining coffees is not all that easy. Most of them are never even made available for purchase as they’re gobbled up at International auction by big time American roasters or roasters in foreign countries. Secondly, they can be pretty pricey as the whole point of the competition is to reward individual farmers who produce exceptional coffees with a higher price. Finally, a higher price for roasters means a higher price for their customers. And since we’ve never offered an award-winning coffee before, the jury is out on whether or not you (our customers) will value such a coffee as much as we do!
For those of you who have followed us a while, you know that we want to see the lives of coffee farmers improved. But this can only happen on a large scale if the International coffee community is willing to begin consistently rewarding quality coffee with a higher price. Coffee has suffered from decades of it being bought and sold as a “commodity.”
When green coffee pricing is tied to the commodities market, it basically means that Farmer A gets the same price for his coffee as Farmer B, even though Farmer A worked harder and produced a superior coffee. In this scenario, there is little to no incentive for Farmer A to invest the time, money and effort into producing superior coffee. This is the scenario that the Cup of Excellence competition has sought to address and change. And it’s working.
In each participating nation there is an annual Cup of Excellence competition. Any individual farmer is allowed to submit a lot of his/her coffee. All coffees are cupped and scored 5 times by an International jury of coffee professionals. The top coffees (typically 25-30) win the opportunity to be sold at an International online auction. The top coffees can go for as much as $30+ USD per pound – a huge incentive. In this scenario everyone whose coffee is up for auction wins as the prices they receive per pound are nearly always at least 2-3 times what they would typically sell their coffees for. Plus, they gain the recognition that comes with placing in such a prestigious competition, which brings new relationships and the chance to sell their coffee for better prices in the future.
So… start getting ready for Rwanda Kayanza Bourbon Cup of Excellence #17. It will be about a month before we put this out to you. I am spending time getting the roast parameters just right. I promise you it will be worth the wait!