Quality is of utmost importance to us here at Mercanta. To locate these coffees, we visit coffee farms throughout the Coffee Belt. Once located, we generate personal relationships with each producer for years to come. These producers, in some cases, are able to then submit coffees successfully to the Cup of Excellence (CoE) competitions and become internationally recognized as high-quality coffee producers. We are proud to work with a number of CoE winners and we hope all of our producers know how much we value and appreciate the hard work that goes into growing coffee.
What is Cup of Excellence?
Beginning in 1999, the Cup of Excellence acted as a global initiative to help producers receive a higher price for higher quality coffee. This first took place in Brazil, chaired, and run by the members of the Brazilian Specialty Coffee Association (BSCA) in addition to members of the American Specialty Coffee Association (SCAA) and the Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE). Even Hidetaka Hayashi, founder of Hayashi Coffee Company in Japan, contributed to the birth of CoE.
After the first “Best of Brazil” competition and auction in 1999, this spurred the launching of the Guatemalan CoE in 2001, Nicaragua in 2002, El Salvador soon followed in 2003 with Honduras and Bolivia initiating their competitions in 2004. Colombia joined the competition in 2005, whilst Costa Rica joined in 2007. 2008 was a landmark year as Rwanda initiated their first CoE marking the spread of CoE to Africa. Soon after, Burundi joined the competition in 2012 along with Mexico. 2017 brought on Peru and just recently, Ethiopia, the motherland of coffee, held its first CoE in 2020.
What is the Impact?
The long-term impact of CoE has pushed producers to learn more about coffee quality and strive to improve agricultural practices, processing methods, and overall quality and yield. This is evident in the growth of the specialty coffee industry and the increase in demand for specialty coffee. More consumers are aware of the competitions, and seek out the coffees to taste the award-winning lots. With the spread in awareness, and increasing wave of aspiring producers – it has created a community dedicated to improving coffee quality and supporting producers’ livelihoods.
Mercanta and CoE
Mercanta has purchased from a number of these winning lots before they participated in the Cup of Excellence competitions. Today, we continue to support winning lots and strive to bring these coffees to our clients throughout the world. Due to the extensive era Mercanta has been functioning, we have been able to meet and facilitate the spread of coffee knowledge to these producers. Connecting these producers to Cup of Excellence is always a great joy to the team – witnessing a hardworking producer being recognized for his or her coffee.
Members of the Mercanta staff have been participating in the Cup of Excellence competitions since 2000, providing support for the selection of winning coffees.
For example, Stephen Hurst, Mercanta’s founder, has judged 15 CoEs whilst also being a member of the board for eight years.
Other members of staff have had similar contributions to the competitions. Christian Schaps, head of the Guatemala office, contributes significantly to the Central American competitions. Leah Warren, North America Manager, has worked with CoE since 2002, judging numerous competitions in Brazil, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Colombia, to name a few.
In total, Mercanta has maintained a presence at these competitions every year for nearly 50 events. The current staff alone have participated in 29 juries. Each year, members of staff disperse to different countries to understand and grasp the quality of coffee in each region. We care deeply about supporting the hard-working coffee producers in the world and helping connect them to the market that is able to provide more opportunities.
Our Partners in CoE
As the first CoE came to a close in Brazil, Mercanta was one of the first to purchase a winning lot. At $1.32/lb, Mercanta bid and won the auction for Estrela do Sul, a purchase that was misunderstood by many in the coffee industry, at the time. However, Mercanta helped spark a movement, a shift towards working with producers in these competitions, highlighting the unique and tasty coffees and supporting producers along the way.
Mercanta is grateful to have been a part of the CoE journey, working with amazing producers who have won numerous competitions. For instance, Finca Las Nubes in Guatemala, a partner with Mercanta for 20 years, in addition to another Guatemalan partner, the Zelayas family who have a collection of farms that have won a number of competitions over the past couple of decades. In Brazil, Fazenda Cachoeira da Grama is another longtime partner with Mercanta producing award-winning coffee.
In Colombia, we have worked with Leonardo Henao of Pergamino, who has supported many farms we have purchased from in the past that have gone on to place in CoE. For example, Los Palomos who have just placed 16th in this year’s competition, will be available in Singapore.
Overall, Mercanta has contributed well over $2 million to winning lots in CoE. We are happy to support these producers and bring these coffees all over the world to you.
The past 20 years have refined and popularized the Cup of Excellence competition, and Mercanta has helped shape and spread awareness for the many producers hidden within the hills throughout the Coffee Belt. We hope to keep working with these producers, and to keep bidding on the shining gems of the coffee industry.