Most of you are familiar with the Cup of Excellence. I just returned from participating on the International Jury for the Nicaragua CoE, held in Ocotal, Nicaragua. What a great experience! Not only was the opportunity to cup fabulous Nicaraguan coffees a unique and concentrated one, but meeting the participating farmers and visiting many of their farms in our “off” time truly gave full perspective to the Nicaraguan coffee experience.
I am reminded that only by visting source countries can one capture the true uniqueness of our industry. In the US we play a huge role in the greater world of coffee. Every decision we make, every step we take to request increased quality, and every bag we ultimately buy makes an impact in the lives and finances of the farmers and their families. The CoE is one of the best programs going in specialty coffee that rewards growers for superior quality. It is enlightening to sit and talk with growers, in this case from Nicaragua, as they ask real and pointed questions regarding the coffee market in the United States.
Is CoE perfect? I think they have moved in the market in the right direction by getting a premium price in exchange for premium coffee. In a global marketplace, there is increasing pressure to deliver products and services for an increasingly reduced price. We simply cannot sustain this direction in the coffee world. Especially in a world of increasing demand for quality coffee. Farmers will plant something more lucrative and pull their coffee trees. This will leave us in a crisis beyond any seen in the coffee market before. Therefore, programs which reward for quality – not just give people money to reduce guilt – are the sustainable ones. The coffee world truly wins when farmers get paid more for a superior product, as it will move more farmers into such production and reward them financially for their efforts.
We look forward to the CoE Nicaragua auction on June 6, 2007, and hope to be the highest bidder on several lots we are interested in offering to our customers by the bag. We think there is real, sustainable quality in this program and encourage you to learn more about it at