Lot #17 and the Peru Cup of Excellence
Author | groundwork coffee Date | April 14, 2020
Have you tried our new Finca Picorana coffee? As the first ever Certified Organic Coffee to triumph in Peru’s Cup Of Excellence (COE) Awards, this win is especially personal to our Chief Coffee Guy, Jeff Chean who continues to advocate for farmers across the globe who are making the transition to organics.
You can find out more about the experience of judging at the Peru COE here. And read along for Jeff's take on why this coffee is so special.
Any coffee that lands in the top 20 of a Cup of Excellence is special. But, four of the top 20 coffees of the 2019 Peru Cup of Excellence had one thing even more special than being a finalist: they were certified organic.
Peru is the largest producer of certified organic coffee in the world; so being organic in and of itself isn't a huge distinguisher. But these four coffees, in a quiet way, made Cup of Excellence history. There have been organic coffees that competed in the Cup of Excellence before, sure; but none who’s certification remained intact. Keeping an organic coffee “certified” requires that it never leaves the possession of a certified chain of custody. That means everyone, from farm to roaster, in the chain of custody is certified organic. Sounds easy, but it isn’t and that’s why, before Peru 2019, it had not happened before. As a result, despite being a COE judge for fourteen competitions, Groundwork had not been able to participate in the auction for winning coffees.
Having worked with the Peruvian Trade Office for the Western US for several years and repeatedly advocating the idea that Peru should participate in the Cup of Excellence, I was more that a little excited when the idea became a reality. “Finally!” I thought, “We’ll be able to buy a COE winning coffee!” As an organic coffee buyer, going to Peru is like being a kid in a candy shop. In my experience, it’s more unusual to find a coffee that isn’t certified Organic and Fair Trade. Eagerly reading the results of the competition, I saw that none of the coffees were listed as “organic”. How can that be? I called the Alliance for Coffee Excellence and found out that most of the coffees were certified organic, but the facility where the coffee was stored before the competition and processed afterwards was not. Ugh! That prompted me to action. Working with Darrin Daniel, Erin Wang (Executive Director and Sr. Manager of ACE, respectively),and Geni Fundes (Gerencia of Central Café y Cacao) over several months, the stage was set for certified winning coffees to maintain their certified status in the 2019 competition.
This is a big deal. Why? I am often met with disdain or derision when I present myself as an organic coffee buyer. Even at the Cup of Excellence, when the growers that made it to the international round meet the judges, I have been asked why I would ask a farmer to “do that?” (get certified), looked at or spoken to with hostility, told that no one cares about “that”, or just plain ignored. In the photo to the left, the room around me is full of tables with conventional growers meeting with COE judges (who are generally also buyers for the company they work for). In another instance, sitting through a longish presentation given by a huge cooperative in Brazil (it shall remain unnamed), the presenter hit the section where he was showcasing how the cooperative has “all the sustainable certifications available." I was looking for my favorite certification (organic) and of course they didn’t have it. I guess they don’t consider being certified organic as a sustainable certification. I was able to speak to the Executive Director of the co-op's specialty coffee division and she confirmed to me that they didn’t have that certification because, “There’s no demand for organic coffee.”
Our Finca Picorana coffee represents so much more than it may seem on the surface. Don’t get too caught up in that this coffee came in 17th place. That score is an average taken from the scores of 20 judges. In fact, my least favorite coffee took first place! Even so, you wouldn’t call an Olympic runner a slow poke just because he/she took 17th place, right? The difference between 1st and 17th place in an Olympic race might not even add up to a quarter of a second. Similarly, the scores of the top ranked coffees in a Cup of Excellence are clustered very closely together. Of the coffees I scored at the competition, this one was in my top five.
This also marks the first time that Groundwork is offering a certified organic Geisha. This coffee is a blend of two of my favorite varieties: Geisha and Caturra. You’ll find that it has some very sweet citrus flavors, pink cotton candy-like notes, and a very complex acidity. Over all, I found this coffee to be a very enjoyable cup and we are very proud to offer it to you.
You can pick up a bag of Finca Picorana for yourself in our online store