Cauca Best Cup - 3rd Edition
Last September we hosted our third-annual live auction of contest winning coffees from a week long event full of cuppings and farm visits in the town of Popayan from the State of Cauca, Southern Colombia. "Best Cup" as we call it, and the winner received $22.00 per pound from Café Libre, in Seoul, South Korea.
Señor Rodrigo Batata from Caldono, Cauca and his one hectare of coffee trees.
Together with our Colombian coffee sourcing partner Banexport and 30 cuppers from around the world, we spent four days cupping coffees in the morning and afternoons visiting producers from this region in preparation for the event. Coffees from this region have rich tropical fruit, sparkling lime acidity, big rich juicy berry sweetness and big full body. They can be a little bit wild and intense and this is the exact quality that makes them unique. Like a nice Chilean Malbec, they can be a little racy, which is one of the reasons we wanted to have this event; to highlight the coffees from this territory.
Banexport collected over 700 submissions over the harvest period of May-July and cupped through them time after time, reducing the submissions down to 60 lots of coffee, 30 micro-lots and some 100 bag lots of "Regional Select" (small lots of coffee that were blended together from a specific micro-region or municipality). In addition, a table of experimental lots and unique varieties like Naturally processed Geishas and Pink Bourbons -- all to be cupped through and auctioned off to our panel of coffee professionals.
To me, these small auctions pay homage to the Cup of Excellence and all the work that program has done over the years to find the best coffee producers in the world, introducing them to the community and paying them well for their commitment to quality and excellence. "Cauca Best Cup" is essentially a small version of COE done on a regional level in order to highlight the micro climates and terroir inherent in the mountainous terrain of Southern Colombia. We do this on a shoestring budget but, in the same way, it discovers and brings forward the best producers in the land, celebrates their greatness in their community, pays them for their quality and introduces them to small roasters from around the world. It is unfortunate in our industry how coffee farmers deliver their product to town and have no idea where it goes or what it becomes. So, one of the greatest joys is seeing the crowd of farmers hanging around the cupping tables all week watching the madness of 30 cuppers from around the world cupping through table after table.
On the final day, we re-cupped the top 15 scoring coffees for confirmation and final scoring. Then we piled in to the bus and headed to the small town of Timbio, where an agricultural coffee fair was being held that day. A day of presentations, vendors, food and celebrations -- kind of like a county fair but throw in the fact that a bus load of gringos were in town to buy some coffee and things got wild.
Roasters from Momos Coffee in Busan to CoffeeMania in Moscow, bidding against Repetition coffee from Kansas and Philly's Elixir. Patriot Coffee from Florida versus Singapore's Nylon coffee and St. Louis' own Sump coffee versus Mpls' Dunn Bros. Quills from Kentucky and LA's Rose Park. These folks were civil during the week but savage on the bidding floor, taking some lots quickly to $10, 11, 12 and $13. Dollars. All the while surrounded by hundreds of screaming Colombian producers encouraging them to pay more with yours truly on the auction podium, gavel in-hand, trying to keep up with the raging prices and the screaming crowd.
When the bidding for each coffee is done, the winning farmer comes up to the stage and is joined by the roaster who just bought their coffee. They hug and take selfies, get certificates but most importantly, they meet. They become business partners and hopefully they begin a relationship that can last for years. We have witnessed first hand the passion that roasters have for a coffee once they meet the person who is responsible for growing it and the pride that famers show when they know the person that is taking their product across the globe to roast, brew and serve it to a community on the other side of the planet. Really pretty cool and one of the success stories that helps me get through Mondays.
We will be back in Huila the end of Jan for Huila Best cup if you know anyone interested in some great coffee and some madness. -- Andrew Miller, Founder & President of Café Imports