The second edition of the Brazil Late Harvest Cup of Excellence (COE) competition is one of great importance, due to the fact that it is the first competition that revolves only around natural processed coffees. The 2013 competition was held in Varginha in the state of Minas Gerais, a small city that lives and breathes coffee. The state of Minas is one of the biggest coffee producing regions in the world; its awe-inspiring, mountainous landscapes are grooved with organised, endless rows of coffee trees – trees that join the lush terrain making it the perfect balance of beauty and productive agriculture.
To be able to enter this competition, farmers need to go through an arduous process of preparing their best crop. From this crop the processing starts by selecting only the finest ripe cherries, then conducting the natural process method where farmers need to control the delicate balance of drying. Too fast, and the coffee won’t develop its flavours; too slow, and the coffee may ferment, which would result in the loss of their entire crop. From here, the farmer may enter their prepared lot for judging.
For the Brazil late Harvest COE, a panel of national cuppers conducted a pre selection that was then followed by two rounds of cupping, by which approx. 60 lots were selected from the 220 original entries. This is then the time that we, the International Jury, a team of 19, joined the program to cup and select 29 lots that based on our criteria, had the profile to be Cup of Excellence coffees (scored over 85 points). Three of these coffees scored a presidential award for scoring over 90 points in the awards ceremony.
A truly wonderful story unfolded when the winners were announced. It all started two days before the ceremony, when we (Latorre & Dutch Coffee Traders and Nolan Hirte from Proud Mary Coffee) travelled to Carmo de Minas to visit the Junqueira family and the Cocarive co-operative. This co-op has produced some of the best quality micro-lots ever to come out of Brazil, all from this blessed region that its “terroir” was intended for; that is, producing the best coffees in the world. The reason for our visit was to buy current crop Brazil lots and to say hello to the beloved Junqueira family, a family Nolan and I work closely with year after year because of their consistency in great quality coffees. We enjoyed afternoon tea with the family, and our conversations lead to the COE competition. The family stated that they had some lots entered in the competition, but they weren’t too stressed about winning; the only goal for them as farmers was to represent their region the best they could. Their main interest was to create sustainability for their area. This showed us their humbleness and community awareness over personal profit. After coffee with the family, we confirmed our purchase of their year’s production plus other lots from neighbours and family; all of them were outstanding. We drove back to Varginha to continue the competition, but left Carmo with joy – not only because we had secured great coffees to take to the Australian market, but also because we knew we had friends and supporters in the best coffee region in Brazil.
The day of the awards ceremony arrived and so did the Junqueira family, dropping by to say hello. They told us that their lots had passed to the final round of cupping, being placed in the exclusive list of the 29 best natural coffees from Brazil. This made us all extremely happy and anxious to know if they would be part of the top ten winners.
When the winners were revealed, we were overwhelmed to find that Mr. Jose Wagner Junqueira took seventh place! But, the story didn’t end there. Second place went to Mrs Amuri de Castro, Jose’s wife. We were bewildered and elated! For Latorre & Dutch Coffee and Proud Mary Coffee, this was the perfect sourcing story, being part of the International Jury for the competition, then visiting and buying the coffee from the Junqueira family, who excelled in the competition with those same coffees we had bought two days before.
These accolades are the result of hard work from all of the people involved and everything they do for the love of the beverage. There’s a sense of joy in this for Latorre & Dutch Coffee Traders, as now we have the opportunity to give this wonderful quality to the Australian coffee consumers. It’s now our responsibility to represent it the best way we can, and this is by supplying it to the best roasters in our country to allow them to bring out the best in these incredible coffees, and in turn honouring our farmers.
Cup of Excellence (COE) is the most prestigious award given to a fine quality coffee. The level of scrutiny that COE coffees undergo is unmatched anywhere in the coffee industry. All of the Cup of Excellence award winners are cupped at least 5 times (the Top 10 are cupped again) during the 3 week competition. During this selection process, thousands of cups are evaluated, tasted and scored based on their exemplary characteristics. The prices that these winning coffees receive at auction have broken records and prove that there is a huge demand for these rare farmer identified coffees.