It’s a special treat to have Susie Spindler of the Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE) and the Cup of Excellence (CoE) here in Iceland. While the members of the five Nordic barista teams are an accomplished and educated group—many are barista champions and skilled cuppers—some may not have previous experience using the CoE cupping form developed by George Howell and used the world over to evaluate top coffees in producing countries. With some knowledge under their belts about Costa Rican regions, climate, and growing conditions, they listened as Susie explained the ACE and CoE beginnings, motivation and future development.
Susie gave some real world examples of how CoE can change the lives of farmers, explaining how the awards ceremony can work to raise the awareness of the government about infrastructures that may be necessary to improve conditions for farmers. She told one story about how it used to be in Honduras that, given a high government imposed export tax, farmers would smuggle their coffee through the jungle to Guatemala, where they would sell it without an export tax. But it would be sold as Guatemalan coffee, and the world remained unaware of how awesome Honduran coffee could be. Thanks to CoE’s presence in Honduras, that export tax has been lowered to a more reasonable rate.
After the lecture, we filed back into the larger activity room for a cupping exercise. Attendees lined up to get samples of four Costa Rican CoE coffees, which they were encouraged to score with provided CoE cupping forms.
So while the attendees were tasting the coffees, the five teams were put through a more rigorous competition: they had to cup six Costa Rican CoE coffees, use the CoE score sheets, and then submit them. They were given 50 minutes for this task. Their submitted sheets will be reviewed by the organizers, who will compare them to the actual scores these six coffees received from the international CoE jury. Whichever team is closest, wins! But we won’t know the winner of the day until dinner tonight… more to come!