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Producers from Nine Countries Honored at 1st Annual Ernesto Illy International Coffee Award

illycafé photo.

Ahmed Legesse of Ethiopia accepting the top prize at the 1st Ernesto Illy International Coffee Awards gala in New York. Illycafé photo.

Last week, the espresso-focused Italian coffee giant Illycafé presented its first annual Ernesto Illy International Coffee Awards, recognizing the top quality producers in its supply network.

Held at the Delegates Dining Room of the United Nations in New York, the event notably pulled the mask off Illy’s signature blend, while more importantly recognizing and promoting the individual producers behind it in the spirit of quality through collaboration. The company has been holding a similar awards program annually in Brazil, yet in UN-fashion, decided to expand the program to include a number of additional major producing countries.

From its quality lab in Trieste, Italy, Illy identified the three best lots from the 2015-16 crop year from each of nine countries that have regularly contributed to Illy’s signature blend, before an international jury selected the top lot from each country. The awards gala itself recognized all 27 finalists.

The countries represented included Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, India and Nicaragua, while the international jury — calibrated by Mark Pendergrast and Illy Quality director David Brussa — was composed of coffee professionals, chefs and members of the coffee-focused media, including Peter Giuliano, Kerri Goodman, Corby Kummer, Grace Hightower, Suvir Saran, Viki Geunes, Luigi Taglienti, Maria Loi, and Adolfo Henrique Vieira Ferreira.

In the end, Ahmed Legesse from Ethiopia was presented with the Ernesto Illy International Coffee Award, with coffee praised by the jury as having an intense yet delicate flavor, and unique high-intensity floral jasmine notes mixed with a hint of citrus and fresh fruit. Receiving an equal score, a Honduran lot from Juan Angel Milla received a special honorable mention.

“Exactly 25 years ago, my father Ernesto Illy created the Brazilian Quality Award, which triggered the transformation of Brazil into a high quality coffee producer,” illycaffè Chairman Andrea Illy said in an announcement following the event. “Today we celebrate this important milestone by extending this prestigious award to all the major producing countries of the unique illy blend, with the aim of building the future of coffee by bringing together growers and coffee lovers.”

Here, by country, are all 27 finalists in the 2016 Ernesto Illy International Coffee Awards


1. Juliana Tytko Armelin
2. Daniella Romano Pelosini
3. Arabela Pereira Lima

1. Carlos Arturo López Guarnizo
2. Ovalle Duarte
3. Eliecer Torres

Costa Rica
1. Mauricio Barrantes
2. Warner Quesada Elizondo
3. Johnny Marin Badilla

El Salvador
1. Jose Antonio Salaverria Jr.
2. Leopoldo Muyshondt
3. Miguel Angel Caceres

1. Ahmed Legesse
2. Seada Shifa
3. Yismashewa Seyoum

1. Jorge Bolaños
2. Jose D. Guerra
3. Edward Andres Esteve

1. Juan Angel Milla
2. Dario Enamorado
3. Omar Acosta

1. Mohamed Suhaib
2. Tanveer Jabbar
3. Anand. J . Mathais

1. Jose Arauz
2. Carlos Alberto Cruz Lopez
3. Victor Hugo Castillo