Are you ready to dive into the world of coffee competitions? Phil here, I'm P&R's Head of Quality assurance and Brewing Development. Recently, I had the privilege of being a part of the international judging panel for the Cup Of Excellence in Indonesia, and let me tell you, it was an experience like no other.
What is the Cup of Excellence?
For those of you who may not be familiar, the Cup of Excellence is a prestigious coffee competition that takes place in various coffee-producing regions around the world each year.
International Judging Panel
The goal is to find the best coffee of each harvest, and farmers from a particular origin will submit their coffee (minimum 300KG) for assessment by a group of national judges. Once the coffees have been cupped multiple times and those with scores below 86 points are eliminated, a group of international judges are brought in to cup the top 40 or so coffees that made it through the rigorous national judging. The top 20 coffees then go to auction, where anyone in the world can bid on them. The Cup of Excellence Cupping Form follows a similar scoring method to the widely adopted Specialty Coffee Association Cupping Form, where Specialty Coffee should typically score above 80 to 84 out of a total score of 100.
I want to take you behind the scenes and give you a glimpse into what it's like to be a part of the international judging panel. After arriving jet-lagged and ready to taste some delicious coffees, the judges assembled in the deliberation room of the hotel conference center. We were introduced to the in-country hosts, COE representative, and the head judge, and then gave brief personal introductions. The group was diverse, with judges from countries such as Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, Bulgaria, The Czech Republic, and The Netherlands, as well as 2 national representatives invited to take part in the international jury. There was also a wide range of professions represented, including baristas, roasters, green buyers, and coffee importers.
Day 1: Calibration Cupping
The first task of the week was calibration cupping. We tasted solutions designed to calibrate our palates to sweetness, acidity, bitterness, and mouthfeel, before moving on to different processing methods throughout Indonesia. We cupped washed, honey, natural, wet hulled, and anaerobic coffees and then discussed our scores and experiences to make sure we were on the same page for what to look for in a quality Indonesian coffee.
Day 2: Intense Cupping
Day 2 was intense, with 40 different coffees to cup over 4 different sessions throughout the day. The aim was to make sure the coffees we sent through to the next round scored an average of 86 points. After a long day of cupping, the judges agreed on the top 30 that achieved the minimum score requirements.
Day 3: Re-Cupping the Top 30
On day 3, we re-cupped the top 30 over 3 sessions, with the minimum score now lifted to 87. This added extra pressure for the judges to make sure that the coffees that deserved it were rewarded with the appropriate score. If the average of scores fell even just slightly under the 87 point mark, the coffee would not be involved in the main auction.
Day 4: Dedicated to the Top 10 Coffees
Finally, on day 4, we dedicated ourselves purely to the top 10 coffees. These coffees are the best of the best, so many years of passion and hard work have gone into making them standouts. It was only fair that we gave them as much attention as we could. Extra time was allotted for the judges to cup and create descriptors that would help these coffees to be presented to the global coffee community.
Being a part of the Cup of Excellence was truly an unforgettable experience. It was an honor to be able to taste and evaluate some of the best coffees in the world and to play a small part in promoting and rewarding the hardworking coffee farmers.
Over the coming weeks, once we’ve received the top 20 samples, the team at P&R will get together to cup them. We’ll identify the coffees that we preference and make a bid to purchase and hopefully come away with one of the best tasting Indonesian coffees.