Although the organizers faced different problems, COE Ethiopia 2020 was not only held but also broke several records.
On June 25, 2020, late at night, the online auction after the first edition of Cup of Excellence in Ethiopia have been closed. There were 28 coffees in it and more than 135 companies from around the world bidding for them. Not surprisingly, Japanese, South Korean and North American buyers managed to share the top 10 coffees.
In July, we are preparing a special surprise for you, which will bring you as close as possible to COE Ethiopia 2020, as to any other specialty coffee competition so far!
COE Ethiopia 2020 was quite different from all other competitions so far
The first record during Cup of Excellence fell when 1459 samples were sent for the inaugural edition of in the birthplace of coffee. This is with 400 more samples than the previous record. Unfortunately, almost immediately after receiving the applications in the capital Addis Ababa, a pandemic of the new coronavirus Covid-19 was announced. As a result, public events were banned and the transportation of goods was severely restricted.
That is why Alliance for Coffee Excellence has unprecedently demanded to receive the lots selected for participation in its headquarters in Portland, Oregon. The organization also changed the Cup of Excellence evaluation protocol to comply with the social distancing measures.
The whole coffee world has turned its attention to Ethiopia waiting impatiently for the results of the first ever edition of the most prestigious specialty coffee competition there. The national jury selected 150 lots from the submitted 1459 coffees. Consequently, this number was further reduced to 40 of the highest quality. Then, the international jury cupped those coffees.
It is interesting to point out that this year only the first stage, the preselection, took place in Ethiopia. Barista Magazine reports that in February the head judge Paul Songer and the assistant head judge John Thompson traveled to Addis Abeba. Their mission was to select the participants together with the 16 members of the national jury.
They spend a full three weeks training auditors, warehouse workers, roasters and sample preparation staff. The aimed result was for everyone to be able to work in sync and following the rules. Due to the pandemic, however, the national jury could not perform its main task. It was impossible to gather in one place and select the finalists in cupping sessions.
That is why the 150 lots had to be cupped by Paul Songer, Ricky Dyson from Campos Coffee and ACE’s executive director Darren Daniel instead. They selected the 40 finalists.
Then the members of the international jury around the world received the samples to test them in their laboratories. The jury of the first edition was composed of Paul Songer, Silvio Leite, Erwin Mierisch, Eduardo Ambrocio, Edwin Ambrocio, John Thompson, Darrin Daniel, Erin Wang and Alex Pond.
Among the participants, as you can see, is Erwin Mierisch from Nicaragua. You may remember that one of the Mierisch family farms, Santa Lucia, won Cup of Excellence in the Central American country last year. We bought the winner – the highest rated Geisha in COE for 2019 and you can still taste it.
What characterizes the highest rated coffees
Probably no one is surprised that the highest rated coffees of COE Ethiopia 2020 come with a bouquet of flavors and extremely clean cup. Darren Daniels told Barista Magazine that firstly, he was amazed by the dry processed coffees’ clean cup. Secondly, he was impressed by the anaerobic experiments. Finally, he added that all the finalists are of very high quality.
Of course, the largest number of participants were dry processed coffees. This means that the coffee beans have dried on the so-called African beds. It is in this process that the fruit notes in the flavor are gradually enriched under the influence of atmospheric conditions and develop what the bean received from the soil, climate and cultivation. Then, there were also anaerobically processed coffees and wet processed coffees, although in a smaller percentage. But the variety of flavors in all was surprisingly rich.
The winner received impressive 91,3 points. It is a dry processed coffee from the 74158 variety (selected in Jimma Agricultural Research Center from wild coffees from West Ethiopia). The farmer Nigusie Gemeda expressed his joy that his coffee is the СОЕ Ethiopia 2020 winner. He noted that it was in fact his goal! He is, by the way, father of 7 children and his coffee has never been bought for the international market yet.
In the list of the winning coffees the largest number is from Sidama, followed by West Arsi, West Guji and Gedeo.
The online auction after COE Ethiopia 2020 sets records too
More than 135 companies have enlisted to participate in the online auction. This set the second record in COE Ethiopia 2020 – there were never that many byers in any other online auction before.
The two lots of the number 1 winning coffee were sold for $ 220 361,56 from Maruyama Coffee and Sarutahiko Coffee from Japan. They paid $ 185 per pound. This price set the third record – it is the highest paid price for Ethiopian coffee ever! The total sales of all 28 lots equals to US$1,348,690 and tops the previous record of US$830,245 from El Salvador in 2011.
Changes in Cup of Excellence rules
Following the successful first competition in Ethiopia under the new model, ACE is considering holding the remaining competitions of 2020 in the same way. In the Central American contries the coffees will be evaluated according to the new Ethiopian model. However, this model can be applied even for South America, depending on the situation there with the new coronavirus.
Darren Daniels shares that for 2021 it is a possible that the evaluation process will be divided in the same way. Sending the finalists’ samples to the laboratories of the international jury members in different countries suggests that more people than usual can take part in the process. That, he says, would benefit all participants.