Wine aficionados often compare the merits of wines using a 100-point rating system.
Coffee connoisseurs do the same, evaluating coffees on a variety of factors such as sweetness, acidity, balance, flavor and mouthfeel.
Each year, the Alliance for Coffee Excellence holds competitions in 10 of the top coffee-producing countries to crown the world’s top coffees, known as the Cup of Excellence®. Debbie Hill, Executive Director of the Alliance for Coffee Excellence, described the impact that the Cup of Excellence means for specialty coffee producers.
“Winning the Cup of Excellence is like winning the gold medal of coffees,” Hill said. “We strive to award coffees that have reached the highest pinnacle of excellence.”
Starbucks coffee buyer Ann Traumann, who scours the globe in search of small lots of high-quality Arabica coffee for Starbucks Reserve®, attended the 2015 Brazil Late Harvest Cup of Excellence Competition in January. Over the course of a week, she tasted (a process called called “cupping”) hundreds of coffees alongside the international jury of 16 jurors from ten different countries as an observer.
Traumann said that when she was there, “I fell in love with a Brazilian.” This Brazilian, in fact, “was an exotic, sweet and elegant cup of coffee. It was love at the first sip and I knew right away that he would be my favorite.”
“I cupped this lot three times. At each session, I was really excited to meet him again on the cupping table,” she said. “I recognized him thanks to his perfume.”
In the end, Traumann’s favorite coffee won the competition with a record-breaking 95.18 points, eclipsing the previous high score in its category of 92.80 points. The coffee was from the Sitio Baixadao farm in the mountains of Brazil’s Minas Gerais region, run by brothers Antonio Marcio and Sebastiao Afonso da Silva.
“When the de Silva brothers were announced as the winners, they were cheered by everybody,” Traumann said. “It was an emotional moment because I know that they worked very hard for this unique coffee, and their hard and beautiful work was rightfully rewarded with winning the competition.”
A few weeks later, Traumann bid on the entire 2,000-pound lot of this extraordinary coffee and won at a live online auction. Starbucks Reserve® Brazil Sitio Baixadao is Starbucks first Cup of Excellence Coffee. The lot will be roasted and sold at the Starbucks Reserve® Roastery & Tasting Room as more than 10,000 visitors converge in Seattle for the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) conference April 9-12, 2015.
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