In January of 2014, Jocylynn Breeland represented Bird Rock Coffee Roasters as part of the international judging team for Cup of Excellence’s Brazilian Competition. Here is her summary of this exciting event.
Many people are familiar with Brazil coffees both on the commodity level and specialty coffee level. In fact, Brazil has been the number one producing country of coffee for over 150 years and is currently responsible for one third of the worlds coffee crops. Because of the overwhelming quantities of coffees produced in Brazil, it is the only country to ever host two Cup of Excellence competitions per growing season. 2014 marks the 3rd Late Harvest (Naturals) Cup of Excellence in Brazil and with the international portion held between January 13th and 17th. Brazil was also a particularly exciting country to attend because the first Cup of Excellence competition and auction ever was held here in 1999.
This year’s Cup of Excellence Brazil Late Harvest was held in Espirito Santo Do Pinhal which is located in the Mogiana region of the state of São Paulo. This city is known for it’s resources of coffee in both production and commercialization. It was a pleasure to spend a week cupping delicious coffees in the scenic and friendly small city.
Another exciting aspect to this particular Cup of Excellence event is that the founder of ACE (Alliance for Coffee Excellence), Susie Spindler, hosted this event as the ACE representative. ACE is a non-profit American company that works with the hosting county of origin to organize the Cup of Excellence competition in every participating country. It is nothing short of amazing what Susie Spindler’s vision of the COE function has developed into in the specialty coffee industry worldwide. COE allows for coffee buyers all over the planet to have access to the same coffees ranked the best of each country every year. This organization has also created a transparency and connection between producers, cuppers, and buyers. Often, the farmers that put so much work into the growing and cultivation of their crop lose their representation in the coffee trade network and in COE the top 20 producers identity is published on-line giving these award winning farmers the recognition they deserve.
There are two main processing methods of coffee. Between the washed (wet) processing and the natural (dry) processing of coffee there are limitless variations of amount of a controlled fermentation, time of contact between fruit (or fruit residues) and beans, and drying methods to name just a few. Although the natural processing of coffee long outdates practice of washed methods (the first coffees consumed in Ethiopia and Yemen 300 years ago were dry-processed) there are currently widespread stigmas associated with this processing method in the specialty coffee industry. Natural processing holds a high possibility of over-drying beans which will yield quantities of broken beans, considered defective. Failure to dry beans thoroughly will result in defective flavoring because these beans will be susceptible to growth of fungus and/or bacteria. A successful processing utilizing the natural method is generally regarded as more difficult to accomplish.
In the ever transforming world of specialty coffee we are beginning to notice an increased in the popularity of dry-processed coffees. Although it may be more difficult to accomplish, a successful natural coffee may be dynamic in sweetness, juiciness, and nuanced in intense exotic flavors of fruit. The Brazil Late Harvest competition focuses on naturals and the many different degrees of natural processing. The coffees I was able to experience in this week long cupping process far succeeded any expectations in quality I had held even in the most optimistic regard.
Yet another attribute to be explored by the Cup of Excellence function is it’ ability to unite an international panel of judges. It is so interesting to discuss various perceptions and share preferences for different qualities of coffee with other professionals. I found that people from different countries seem to prefer different profiles in most cases which demonstrated global market demands influenced by these preferences. It is such a unique privilege to be able to work with an international panel of professional cuppers and deliberate on a countries finest coffees… A lot of hard work but somebody’s got to do it! 🙂
by Chuck Patton
Bird Rock Coffee Roasters