After a one-year hiatus, the Cup of Excellence (CoE) coffee quality competition resumed in Nicaragua, with submissions from 249 coffee-producing participants resulting in a wealth of high-quality winners heading to public auction next month.
For Portland, Oregon-based Cup of Excellence organizer the Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE), the Nicaragua event was the second CoE in the COVID-19 era, following Ethiopia, requiring some logistical wizardry, including the ability for international judges to cup coffees from afar and a virtual awards ceremony.
Amidst such challenges, the coffees themselves shined through the competition, including 17 CoE winners (scoring 87+ points according to the international jury) and 12 National Winners (scoring 85-86.99 points). Winning coffees hailed from five different growing regions within Nicaragua.
For the competition, ACE collaborated with the government-led in-country organizing partner The National Commission for the Transformation and Development of the Coffee Sector, known as CONATRADEC.
“It’s a historic day for Nicaragua, Cup of Excellence and the country of Nicaragua. This has been part of a plan for development for the coffee industry of Nicaragua,” Nicaragua Minister of Agriculture Eduardo Centeno said in an announcement released by ACE. “The quality of our coffee is showing results. This pushes us to keep working harder. Together with ACE we know we can keep working with farmers to give them access to buyers around the world.”
The top coffee in the 2020 Nicaragua CoE was submitted by Luís Alberto Valladarez Moncada, who also took first place in 2018. While seven coffee varieties were represented in the list of CoE winners, all five of the top lots were of the Maracaturra hybrid, which is believed to be a typically big-beaned cross between the Maragogipe and Caturra that initially began appearing in Nicaragua in the 1970s.
“We humbly receive this award in the name of Nicaragua farmers,” said Luís Alberto Valladarez Moncada, whose winning Maracaturra was natural-processed. “We represent small farmers in Nicaragua, and we know their effort and everything that must be done in order to produce these coffees. With the effort of everyone involved we can push ourselves through this difficult time, people want to work and make it happen and this is a small example of what Nicaraguan coffees can do that we can offer to the world.”
The Nicaraguan coffee sector has struggled in recent years due to historically low international prices and the economic fallout of political crisis, including a lack of access to credit among the sector’s backbone of smallholder coffee farmers. According to the USDA’s Global Agriculture Information Network’s latest report, the market year 2019-20 saw an 11% decline in countrywide coffee production.
The CoE auctions typically earn farmers exponentially higher prices than they might receive on local markets, encouraging a more sustainable coffee sector while showcasing the high quality Nicaraguan coffees and the farmers behind them.
The Nicaragua CoE auction is taking place Thursday, July 16, while the National Winners auction will run from July 13-31. See ACE’s complete auction schedule here.