Rwanda Cup of Excellence day one

So I arrived in Rwanda and have gone through the first few days of the competition. As expected my internet connection in slow and infrequent, so I think I will be posting about the trip once I get back. I’m going to get it typed up and place it when I can.
First impressions are what you would expect, lovely county incredibly hospitable, lovely environment and I’m enjoying it very much. The jury is amazing, the great names I’ve built up in my head, are as nice and good as I could have imagined. But I don’t want to keep saying the same thing you would expect me to so I’m going to try and but some new information into every post for you.
Today I’m going to put in a small article I’ve written about what the cup of excellence is. The cup of excellence is something that’s very close to my heart, and something that has allowed me to experience some of the very best things in coffee. I hope you find the piece interesting and useful

The Cup of Excellence Coffee Program

Cup of Excellence is an awards program that seeks to reward coffee producers for their hard work. Awards are presented in accordance with competition protocols that select the best coffees produced in each country staging an event in any particular year. The winning coffees are chosen by a group of national and international judges. Each coffee is cupped on at least five separate occasions during the competition process. The entry is slowly reduced as only coffees that show unique qualities and nuances are allowed to progress through the various stages of the competition. The eventual winners are awarded the Cup of Excellence mark and the coffees are then sold to the highest bidder during an internet auction.

It is not unusual for there to be 700-800 samples entered into a Cup of Excellence competition for consideration. Fine coffees are very difficult to find. Every crop of coffee beans has its own set of intrinsic properties and potential culinary values. It takes many hours of cupping and evaluating to find true specialty coffee that can be designated as being of Cup of Excellence quality.

The production of a winning Cup of Excellence coffee that will do well at auction takes a lot of skill and dedication from farmers who are masters of their craft. The program offers those farmers the chance to be rewarded publicly for their passion, hard work and endeavours. The real bonus for them is that they, as sellers, are introduced to buyers, and consequently those same buyers are afforded the opportunity to discover coffees that they may not otherwise have found.

Many winning farmers use the prize money to improve their farms or to provide better facilities for workers. We purchased coffee from one particular farm in Costa Rica and they spent a small proportion of the money from it on a football pitch for the workers and their families to enjoy.

The Cup of Excellence program has no bias toward large or small producers and anyone is allowed to enter. Strict auditing of the scoring takes place so that at no time does anyone evaluating the entries have any idea who the producer is, or anything about the coffees they are judging. This process ensures fairness and transparency at all times.

So how does a coffee get evaluated and potentially become a special Cup of Excellence coffee?

The following extract is reproduced from the Cup of Excellence website:

The Cup of Excellence® competition consists of 3 STAGES:

1. Pre-selection or screening

2. National jury which is made up of host country cuppers

3. International jury which is made up of international coffee

The Pre-selection process reduces the number of entries to approximately 150 through visual inspection and cupping analysis.

Cuppings are done in sessions of ten coffees or less on a table.

The National Jury Stage consists of 2 cupping ROUNDS lasting about 5 days.

The first round lasts about 3 days, during which the prescreened coffees are cupped and scored. During the first round all of the prescreened coffees are cupped and scored, the second round consists of only the top 80 or so of which are then reduced down to the top 60 or less coffees scoring over 84 points.

These top coffees then move forward and enter the international stage of the competition.

All competition coffees must score at least 84 points to move to the next round.

The international jury consists of 5 days of cupping.

On the first day there is an extensive calibration. On day 2-3 the international jury cups the coffees which have been approved and passed by the national jury leaving the afternoon free for farm tours or coffee presentations.

On the 4th day the second round begins and is the most intense cupping day. The jury will cup about 45 coffees which have passed the first round. Coffees scoring an 84 or above during this round are awarded the prestigious Cup of Excellence.

The top ten scoring coffees are cupped one more time to rank them and discover the first place winner of the competition.

The highest juror score and the lowest score for each coffee are dropped out before tabulating the average score.

Any coffee that is found to have a major defect by jurors during any round, at any stage, and no matter what its past scores, will be disqualified.

The rigorous tasting regimen that is in place all the way from pre-screening through to the competition final ensures every winning coffee is cupped numerous times. This minimises the chance of there being an undetected defect or problem with the coffee.

I have received the honour of being invited to sit as a judge on many Cup of Excellence competition juries in a number of countries. As a result of those visits, it has been my absolute pleasure to meet many of the growers whose coffee we buy.

We at Has Bean have been lucky enough to build long-term relationships with several producers. Consequently, many of our normal offering coffees are either previous Cup of Excellence winners or from winning farms.

I have also been delighted to serve on the Board of Directors for the Alliance of Coffee Excellence, who are the owners and custodians of the Cup of Excellence project.  Being involved is a time consuming and expensive commitment, but one that I have found to be incredibly rewarding and which has helped further my coffee education.

More information about the Cup of Excellence program can be found at:

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  1. Wow! That is some process Steve! Thanks for posting and very pleased you’re having such a great time 🙂

  2. Hey cool. I’m glad you managed to find a bit of internet access. Have fun with the competition mate 🙂

  3. Thanks Steve. I have sent this link to a couple of Roasters we have not heard of CoE, but are now (After conversations) are quite interested.

  4. I recently got to attend a cupping of the top 5 CoE coffees from Guatemala (roasted for drinking) and learned a LOT, and of course got to taste some very fine coffees indeed. I’m very excited about what CoE is doing, especially as it benefits the farmers. Thanks for the post!


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