Release #7: El Barril C.O.E. 2018
Back in 2015, the first Cup of Excellence Winning lot that Passenger purchased was from a farm called El Barril in the Nueva Segovia region of Nicaragua. A few years later, when we learned that a coffee from El Barril, owned by Bayardo José Jimenez Rodríguez, had been awarded a winning place in the Cup of Excellence a second time, we were incredibly excited to buy a portion of that competition lot as well! A third, even more recent lot from El Barril is currently being featured on Passenger’s Education Lot Menu.
As with all of our favorite coffees from this famous farm, the 2018 Cup of Excellence winner, an example of the maracaturra variety, is incredibly elegant, nuanced, and gentle. Wafer cookie and citrus on the nose introduce a cup that is marked by a soft stone fruit-like acidity and marzipan sweetness. This is an incredibly clean and lovely coffee.
The Cup of Excellence competition was started in 1999 by George Howell and Susie Spindler. Its purpose was, and still is to this day, to find the best coffee producers in any given country of production. This is done via a rigorous process of blind analysis, first by a National Jury of roughly a dozen (who, themselves, are rigorously vetted for the honor of being a Cup of Excellence judge), and then by an International Jury comprised 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. The top ten lots (as ranked by the International Jury) will have each been cupped at least 120 times!
After the coffees are ranked by the International Jury there is an online auction open to buyers all around the world. The auction serves two purposes. Firstly, it drives the prices of the coffees up. The lion’s share of money garnered via the auction makes its way back to the producer. Secondly, it gives coffee producers more direct market access, connection them directly to buyers and also plugging them into a system where buyers, the world over, know to look for excellent producers/coffees. The Cup of Excellence competition has pioneered integrity and transparency in the coffee industry, ensuring the value of winning coffees.