I have just returned from the Cup of Excellence in Nicaragua. This was Nicaragua’s 10th year participating in the COE. Despite this only being my second time participating in the COE, it feels like a bit of a reunion when the panel comes together and it’s nice to build these intercontinental relationships that continue long after COE is over.
Experiencing the hospitality in Matagalpa was humbling. Every evening we were hosted by either farm owners, exporters and other sponsors…and different high profile farmers or politicians would give speeches about the coffee industry. Listening to the speeches during the evenings, only reinforced that I really need to learn Spanish, and I’m not sure the language application on my iphone is cutting it.
By the time we had arrived for COE, the National Jury had done an amazing job narrowing the 400 coffees entered to 60, leaving us with some stunning coffees. We narrowed down the 60 coffees in 2 days, which is the most coffee cupping I have done in such a short amount of time. The International jury narrowed it down to 29 coffees, and the next few days after that, we brought it down to 27 stellar coffees.
The awards ceremony was huge – there were around 1000 people waiting to hear the results, and then we all sat down for dinner together.
After COE wrapped up, I was lucky enough to tour one of Erwin’s farms. Driving around 40 minutes out of Matagalpa, we arrived to the most amazing coffee farm I have visited. Not only was the farm lush, green, full of waterfalls, and beautiful landscape, but this farm has several different varietals of coffee and I had the rare opportunity to cup a Yellow Pacaramara, which was an outstanding 90+ coffee.
I was fortunate to meet some great farmers while I was away that I hope to build relationships with in the futrue. I also found it interesting to talk to the farmers about how the fluctuating coffee prices and the low harvest affect them. For example, I met a farmer who had an outstanding COE coffee but he wasn’t able to participate so that he could honour all his contracts – one very lucky roaster will be receiving that coffee soon. And from knowing his reputation, it would have probably made it into the top 10.
Overall, COE in Nicaragua has created a huge amount of awareness for their coffee. Every year, Nicaragua is experiencing tremendous growth in their coffee exports and they are fetching better prices for their coffees. I’m looking forward to going back next harvest and our customers can look forward to seeing more coffees from Nic. on our shelves.