We’ve long known about the sophisticated espresso culture scene ‘Down Under’. Some of the leading specialty roasters and retailers in Australia are now stepping up to explore Cup of Excellence coffees.
Excellent reason to indulge in a cuppa
By: Necia Wilden | March 05, 2009
What champagne is to sparkling wine, a Cup of Excellence is to your standard morning coffee
Bringing new meaning to the term international roast, the Cup of Excellence range is recognised by the coffee industry worldwide as the cream of the crop.
Cup of Excellence beans are considered the peak of coffee production, offering the best quality brews from nine of the world’s top coffee-producing nations.
British coffee expert Stephen Hurst, who is visiting Australia this week, is on the board of directors of the annual Cup of Excellence competitions, in which producers vie to be ranked their country’s top coffee producer.
“We’re at the sharp end of the industry, the top 2 to 3 per cent of coffee production,” he said. “This is the very top level of tasting.”
Since the non-profit Cup of Excellence organisation was launched in Brazil in 1999, with three member countries, the value of its coffee beans sold at auction has risen from $US4.63 per pound to $US7.05 per pound between 2005-2008.
The competition is now run every year in nine coffee-producing countries, from Colombia to El Salvador and Rwanda, and Cup of Excellence coffee is sold at cafes and foodstores from Britain to America to Norway and Japan.
The cafe latte sets in Sydney and Melbourne can now enjoy Cup of Excellence coffees in a few specialist cafes in Sydney and Melbourne.
Russell Beard, owner of The Source cafe and roastery in Mosman on Sydney’s northside, will be charging his standard $3.50 for the special brew.
“The whole experience is really about celebrating the farmer and the farm where it was grown,” he said.
At Brother Baba Budan, a cafe in Melbourne’s CBD, owner Mark Dundon is offering Guatemalan “Finca La Perla” Cup of Excellence for $3 a cup, his standard coffee price.
Mr Dundon, who is travelling to Colombia next week to be one of 15 international judges at the 2009 Colombian Cup of Excellence competition, said the program offered significant financial benefits for coffee farmers.
Almost all the coffees are sourced from a single estate, and occasionally two or three small farms will be grouped together. As well, the farmer’s name is included on the elaborate tasting notes that accompany each bag of beans.
So what’s the best way to enjoy the ultimate coffee?
Mr Hurst said the best way to appreciate the individual qualities of a Cup of Excellence is to enjoy it as filter or plunger coffee.
“That’s when they really come into their own,” he said. “You might taste a Kenyan alongside an Ethiopian. The Kenyan will be like a Barolo wine, with big, bold, blackcurranty flavours; the Ethiopian will be floral, jasmine, delicate, like a refined white wine. They’re totally different.”
To continue the wine analogy for the moment at least, you can go to a cafe and drink the coffee equivalent of a glass of Krug champagne for the price of a Domaine Chandon.