What is Cup of Excellence?
Simply put, Cup of Excellence (COE) are coffee competitions that are held in about a dozen producing countries.
Coffee producers enter their coffees into the competition where they undergo extensive rounds of screening and judging – and when we say extensive, we’re not kidding! There are two preselection screening phases, before coffees are passed through to the National Jury phase. This is where cuppers from all over the competition country cup the samples together and determine the highest scoring lots to pass on to the International Jury.
The International Jury phase is where we come in – various members of the Proud Mary team have served on International Jury’s for about a decade now, and 2023 was our largest showing to date, with Nolan Hirte (founder), and both members of our Green Departments serving on Juries. International Juries are comprised of cuppers from all over the world, over a week all the samples are cupped, scored, and ranked. In each round, coffees are eliminated until the top 10 coffees are cupped on the final day and the winners are announced.
Coffees from the International phase are then sent to be auctioned to the highest bidder.
Why do we participate?
The biggest reason would be that, as a company, we believe in what ACE/COE stand for (more on that later) and want to show our support by participating where we can.
Outside of that philosophical and cultural alignment, participating in an International Jury is a great way to explore all the different types of coffee a country has to offer. Where else would you be able to spend a week cupping the best of the best, from a specific origin?
We’re taken these experiences and leveraged them to form relationships with producers, buying coffees directly from them, year after year.
Some COE History:
In 1999 the Cup of Excellence (COE) founders along with the Specialty Coffee Association of America developed the first global internet auction platform for award winning coffees. These auctions have allowed exemplary coffee farmers, whether award winning or not, to realize a greater financial price for their coffees. Prices from the auctions have been multiple times higher than the traditional method of selling. The pricing transparency of the auctions has increased the overall value of top specialty coffees globally- not just for the COE coffees.
The global accessibility of the auctions allowed for any size roaster anywhere in the world to purchase an exemplary award-winning coffee either solely or in a group. These are coffees that may not have otherwise been available or even known. Before internet auctions most of the top-quality coffees were either blended or sold to the preferred customers of exporters. Transparent auctions supported those roasters or importers wanting a direct channel to high quality farmers and have helped multiple companies expand their customer base and increase the success of their farmer-identified coffees.
In late 2002 with its mission to reward exemplary coffee farmers and to grow the Cup of Excellence program, the Alliance for Coffee Excellence, Inc (ACE) was created.
While Cup of Excellence and the Alliance for Coffee Excellence will always be closely linked, they’re actually two separate non-profit organizations; ACE handles thae online auctions, memberships, and (as a trade organization) growing the Specialty Coffee marketplace. While COE handles the competitions, projects in coffee producing countries, as well as educational projects all over the world.