Three Reserve Lots from Cup of Excellence Legends

By Evan Howe

Among our most recent additions to the Reserve Lot menu are three superlative coffees produced by former winners of the Cup of Excellence competition: a Los Yoyos catuaí from 2015 Honduras 1st place winner Eulogio Martínez, a “bourbon ají” selection from 2021 Colombia 6th place winner José Salazar, and a honey processed gesha from 2021 Costa Rica 1st place winner Ivan Gutiérrez. Passenger has often purchased small portions of winning competition lots from various Cup of Excellence auctions, and we will continue to do so situationally as a way to showcase exceptional coffees from a given year. However, in the case of the three producers highlighted here, the Cup of Excellence was only the first step: we have continued to purchase coffees from each of these farms following their respective competition triumphs and we hope to have the continued privilege of roasting coffees from their farms for many years to come.

The Cup of Excellence (C.O.E.) is the preeminent international coffee competition and auction that, since 1999, has pursued its mission of  selecting and bringing to market the finest coffees from any given country of origin. C.O.E. competitions are conducted via a process of blind analysis: first by a National Jury of roughly a dozen people (who themselves are rigorously vetted for the honor of being a Cup of Excellence judge), and then by an International Jury of roughly 20 industry professionals from around the globe. As each lot enters the competition process it is assigned a code known only to the competition auditor. Each lot is cupped (tasted) numerous times. The further along the competition a coffee progresses, the greater the number of times it has been blindly evaluated. A coffee that ultimately makes it to the top 10 of the competition will have been tasted at least 120 times!

After being assigned a final ranking, the coffees are sold through an online auction which tends to drive prices quite high. Overall, this is a net positive for producers and the industry at large as it incentivizes farmers to carefully produce the best possible coffee to submit to the competition, thus treating the crop as a truly specialty item and further distancing and distinguishing specialty coffee from commodity coffee and commodity-driven approaches to producing and selling coffee. Further, it normalizes high prices for coffee - a necessity if coffee production is to continue into the foreseeable future. Finally, the Cup of Excellence plays an important role in facilitating market access for small coffee producers that might otherwise struggle to connect with specialty buyers who are motivated to pay excellent prices for their coffee.

Passenger’s Reserve Lot menu was created as a home for exceptional coffees, often only available in limited volumes, that offer an excellent representation of plant genetics, processing, or the time and place of their production. Los Yoyos Catuaí 2022, José Salazar 2022, and Ivan Gutierrez Gesha 2022, purchased from three of the most accomplished producers in their respective countries, are stellar Reserve Lot additions in every way.

Three Reserve Lots from Cup of Excellence Legends