There’s something about COE…

Our roaster, Anne Cooper, recently traveled to Brazil for the first ever Brazil Late Harvest Cup of Excellence competition. Not only did Anne get to taste some of the country’s most incredible coffees, she had the chance to meet the producers behind coffees she found truly amazing.

Curiously enough, Anne tasted one particular coffee that blew her away—and she also met one exceptional producer who humbled her completely. Keeping in mind that the CoE tastings are blind, Anne had no idea which producer had produced which coffee…but lo and behold when the awards were announced, the woman by whom Anne had been starstruck was the same woman behind the coffee that had her awestruck. Back home in Ozone Park, the rest of us at Dallis Bros. had the opportunity to cup a sample of that very same coffee—Winner No. 5&mdasha stunningly elegant cup with rose-petal-floral tones, a clean acidity and a beautiful structure. Continuing our lucky streak, we then had the opportunity to win this coffee at auction—which we did!—and it is now making its way from Brazil to Queens. By the time it gets here it will have cost us more than $1000/bag unroasted…but you know what? We couldn’t be more excited unless we were Anne. Her diary from Brazil follows.

Well ……I never would have thought that I would have ever gotten the opportunity to go to a Cup of Excellence event—ever!! But there I was at the 2012 Brazil Late Harvest Cup of Excellence event this January.

It was a long way away from the cupping sessions I once held all the way back in Brisbane, Australia where —based only on what I could gather from the CoE website, reading from other resources as well as working to bring in small amounts to Australia via the team from Cafe Imports—I valiantly spread the word about this wonderful program to Australian coffee lovers who had never been exposed to Specialty coffee (only knew their coffee as ‘instant’ or as a ‘brand’) and knew nothing of the crop to cup journey. I once actually cried during a cupping session I was doing for the Australian Slow Food Group, when I was recounting how wonderful this competition is for the producers and what winning can mean for their quality of life etc. etc.!!

So, a very big thanks to Dallis Bros. Coffee and the wonderful John Moore for not being able to attend! I was thrilled at the opportunity to finally attend a Cup of Excellence event, the first ever Brazil Late Harvest competition, where I met one special producer—Hislena Pereira Nogueira. Hislena is a wonderful lady, 2nd generation farmer of her father’s farm which she now runs with her son. She is a true superstar in my eyes—a lady I will never, ever forget (although I think she thought I was stalking her a bit as I was completely starstruck by her). Meeting her was so very humbling for me.

Even though I was only an observer, and not a judge, at all times I was made to feel included, my opinion was asked for and respected and no-one ever acted like they were more important than the coffee they were cupping and judging (and believe me, there were certainly some legendary, superstar cuppers there too!!!)….we all took it very seriously, in a unified way, that we were there to taste and judge some of the finest Natural coffees of Brazil.

Another aspect of attending Cup of Excellence that you can’t read about, but need to experience for yourself, is the ‘spirit’ of being part of an international jury and what this means to the overall competition…. the spirit of the participants was fuelled by the spirit of the organisers who—through their meticulous structure—made sure the whole experience was positive and everyone had the opportunity to network and get to know each other (by the second day, we all got along so well, it felt like we had all been cupping together for years!!) as well as experience and enjoy some great aspects of Brazilian culture.

I didn’t understand straight away that an international jury of different people from all around the world meant there would be differences in palates/tastes—I totally failed to see this until after the first calibration cupping where the significance of different palates really expressed itself…..very quickly you saw what each culture was attracted to—and this can be exciting for a particular coffee/producer/the Cup of Excellence competition as a whole—which also means one amazing opportunity to learn even more about this complex world of coffee and what this means to other cultural palates. I was totally awestruck by the differences in perception of various tastes and flavours by each international judge and how this could affect how a coffee was judged and scored and what this meant to a coffee from the business and marketing perspective.
Back to the producers. I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Hislena before the awards ceremony—at this stage no one had any idea who had won anything—but there was something about Hislena! I actually remember being very nervous and anxious about this opportunity to meet one of the producers….but when I saw Hislena going up to get her finalist certificate I said That’s my lady…I have to talk to her!!! So I grabbed the translator and the rest is history….

A a result of this wonderful experience many new professional friendships were forged and it was wonderful that we were all there for the unified goal of supporting and promoting producers like Hislena.