Piero Cristiani, Cafe Imports’ green buyer for nine (yes, nine!) countries, traveled to Caracas, Venezuela, on July 11 to attend the second annual EICEV 2023 expo, competition, and auction. The event was held at Ciculo Militar El Laguito Park and lasted the entire week. One look at the Instagram account, and you’ll feel the bustling atmosphere of the international event. It was so busy, in fact, that it was extended a couple of days to get everyone through the doors. Nearly 200 booths, plenty of pop-up restaurants and food trucks, designated education areas, music, parties, and speakers all surrounded the anticipated competition. Like our Best Cup Competitions or the Cup of Excellence, producers submit lots to be cupped through multiple rounds, narrowing the field for the final day’s auction.
186 lots were submitted for pre-selection to EICEV, where coffees whose “tasting score is equal to or greater than 84.00 points” would advance. 85 lots qualified for the second “National Cupping” round held on Monday, June 12. To advance from this round to finals, coffees must score 85.00 points or more. 48 coffees made the cut, marking a ~69% increase over last year’s 15 qualifying lots. For Café de Venezuela, this is an encouraging metric – the competition is gaining traction. That brings us to the final round – the “International Round” held on June 15. Certified tasters from 15 countries judged, including Piero, who spent the day tasting and scoring each lot, identifying the top 15 coffees that would be auctioned the following day.
At the auction, Piero sat on the front row bidder’s panel alongside other international and domestic cuppers, green buyers, and roasters. The auctioneer and producer would stand on the stage before him, backdropped by a screen displaying their coffee’s information. Behind Piero, the auction hall was overflowing with attendees. The crowd got louder as the bids went higher, and every sale was met with uproarious celebration.
Piero with the winning bid for Francisco Rosales’ washed Tabi.
We’re delighted to announce that Piero secured two lots: the 1st place washed-category offering (3rd overall) and the 3rd place anaerobic-category coffee (5th overall). The top washed coffee was a Tabi variety, produced by Francisco José Rosales, owner of hacienda La Alejandría at 1600masl in the Boconó municipality of the Trujillo region. Piero scored this coffee at an astounding 90 points. Kelly Andrade produced a Catuai and Caturra anaerobic honey at her farm, La Curva, in the Mérida region. We’ll be importing these 100lb lots with plans to partner with a roaster and sell them, donating the proceeds to a local charity or development organization in Venezuela.
Francisco Rosales’ 3rd Place announcement (left) and the top 3 finalists (right)
Photo Credit: EICEV
Venezuela has been an area of interest for Café Imports over the last five years. We’ve sampled coffees, met producers, and sought our chance to visit. Before EICEV, Piero was in touch with one of our producer friends in Venezuela to discuss this year’s harvest, and he invited Piero to the competition. We were honored to attend, judge, bid, and ultimately see what Venezuela offers the industry.
This country has had little exposure to specialty coffee drinkers due to recent hardships. Venezuela has been called a petrostate, facing economic collapse, unstable political autocracy, staggering inflation, and high migration numbers over the last decade. As for the coffee sector, two factors have kept exports low. First, President Hugo Chavez enacted policies in 2003 that fixed price limits on coffee to control inflation. Unfortunately, producers couldn’t profit from their crops with these policies, drastically reducing production. Since then, these limits have loosened, but Venezuela is still recovering. Second, due to Italian cultural influence, Venezuela has a strong internal consumption market and a preference for espresso. Italian immigrants accounted for a quarter of Venezuela’s population in the ‘80s, and approximately 16% of Venezuelans have some Italian ancestry today. Regardless, we attended a competition that clearly put the country’s best producers center stage, and we will be returning to Venezuela seeking more coffee.
Leading up to the event, Gabriel Gonzalez, EICEV Foundation president, told VTV (Venezolana de Televisión):
“Venezuela has 65,000 coffee producers, spread over its 20 states, with a total of 133 coffee-growing municipalities, who give their best day by day, to produce an important item for Venezuelans and the world, who will proudly represent us in the [EICEV]”.
We believe this was achieved. Last year, we introduced two new countries to our offerings list, and we’re excited to see Venezuela join those ranks. Piero is set to return to Venezuela next harvest, meet more producers, and source in volume. “[Venezuela] can produce great coffee like its neighbors, Colombia and Peru, as it has high altitude and great varieties,” he told Daily Coffee News. As he saw at EICEV 2023, it also has the producers.