……… If I thought I was overwhelmed at the cupping table so far… the Cup of Excellence Coffees were about slap me right around the palate and leave my cupping-confidence confounded.
Its been a couple of weeks since Falcon Speciality and Extract hosted an event that saw local roasters come together to sample the best coffees coming out of El Salvador – and today I’ve just sat down with a cup of coffee from the Caballeros Farm in the Alotepec-Metapan region that placed 15th out of the 25 winning lots. I ransacked the remaining samples of CoE coffees we had left and this particular cup scored high at our event so I thought I’d revisit it. The fact that its a few weeks past roast date, yet still packs a punch of green apple sweetness with great body, demonstrates just how phenomenal these coffees can be. Its also great to test how the coffee brews away from the confusion of the cupping table.
The Cup of Excellence is a competition that takes place in 10 speciality coffee growing regions around the world. A national and international jury score coffees according to standardised cupping criteria. Everything from the roast colour to the after-taste is carefully examined. Aroma, sweetness, acidity, mouth-feel, flavour and balance all determine the overall score which is placed 1-100, and this years winners all scored in excess of 85 points. These winning lots then go to auction. The highest scorers obviously fetch the highest prices, and the prestige of the competition means importers and roasters are willing to pay upwards of two, three, four or five times their usual price. The winning El Salvador lot from 2012 fetched around £38 per kg!
However, the ultimate winners in this auctioning process are, quite rightly, the farmers themselves. The CoE programme has given over US$35m to the coffee producers since 1999, and this success lasts long after the competition is over as relationships between farmer and international buyer are cemented, and the benefits reaped for seasons to come.
(I’m almost at the end of my cup of Cabelleros coffee and am only just discovering a hit of orange peel and cinnamon!)
Our expectations were high, and the cups laid out in front of us did not disappoint. As roasters, buyers, baristas and cuppers shuffled around the cupping table – juggling tasting notes, bottles of water, spoons and spittoons – the slurp-athon got underway. Those that scored highly for us were often the wildest cups on the table, ones that could just about manage to stand out, in a table of stand outs. Shouts of ‘rhubarb’ and ‘sage’ could just be made out amongst the unusual sound-scape that is 40 people swigging and sipping in unison. The San Nicholas A and Miravalle lots topped our lists, and after all my bewilderment, these placed high on my notes as well! Success!
The coffees, and company, were great. Many thanks to Falcon for hosting the event, and to everyone who came and made it a great afternoon: Clifton Coffee, Little & Longs, Caravan, Rave Coffee, Roundhill, Colombian Coffee Co., Milly Bar, Full Court Press. Also to Wiper and True – the tasting of some wonderful craft ales was a welcome addition to the evening!
Keep your eyes open on the Extract Shop, our fingers are crossed for a win at the auction!
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