Premium, award-winning Colombian coffee creates online buzz
Wednesday 08 June 2011
One of the finest, most expensive cups of coffee today boasts a floral, jasmine aroma, has a lingering creamy aftertaste, background notes of vibrant cherries and an "effervescence" that lends the java a robust and round sweetness.
That was the verdict of an international jury of coffee experts who awarded Colombian farmer Primavera the Cup of Excellence last week - an assessment that fueled an online bidding war and saw American, Australian and Taiwanese coffee companies join together to pay more than $100,000 (€68,192) for 2,300 lbs (1,043 kg) of unroasted coffee.
After Colombia's record-breaking online auction, other coffee farmers are also likely abuzz with anticipation as winning farms from El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras will be selling their coffee in the next few weeks. Nicaragua auctioned their coffee Tuesday.
The Cup of Excellence honors the best coffee produced in nine coffee growing countries around the world as evaluated by a panel of international experts. The winners are awarded the Cup of Excellence and sold to the highest bidder during an internet auction.
To be deemed Cup-worthy, coffees must be perfectly ripe, carefully picked with a well-developed body, have a pleasant aroma and a sweetness characteristic of only high quality, specialty coffees.
Coffee farmer Arnuflo Leguizamo's winning lot was awarded 94.05 points - an unusually high mark in a competition that rarely gives out scores over 90. Coffees are judged or 'cupped' over a five-day period. Like wine tastings, a coffee cupping involves sniffing the 'cup of joe' deeply and loudly slurping the liquid so it spreads to the back of the tongue. Coffees are judged by body, acidity, flavor and aftertaste.
Café Imports of Minneapolis, the George Howell Coffee Company of Boston, Mecca Espresso of Australia, and Robert Kao and Co. of Taiwan joined together to make the winning bid, paying $103,803 (€70,782) for the lot or $45.10 (€31) a lb.
To put prices in perspective, according to the US Department of Labor, a one-pound can of ground coffee sold for an average of $5.10 in the US in April, up from $3.64 the year before. Rising prices have been blamed on coffee speculators, inclement weather in coffee-growing countries and increased demand in burgeoning countries like China. The price hike also forced Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts to up their prices as well.
Meanwhile, the George Howell Company distributes their premium coffee at retailers like select Whole Foods in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Connoisseurs in the US can also join their coffee club and receive a regularly scheduled bag of coffee at their door weekly.
Mecca Espresso has two cafe locations in Sydney where they specialize in premium, gourmet coffee offerings.
The second and third place winners also broke competition records as Eladio Ossa's runner-up coffee fetched $38.80 lb (€27) and was also sold for more than $100,000 (€68,192) split between companies in Norway, the US, Japan, Colombia and Taiwan.
Meanwhile, the 12th annual World Barista Championship in Colombia wrapped up on Monday and crowned Alejandro Mendez of El Salvador the coffee-pulling king. He dethroned American champion Michael Phillips. Other award winners came from the US, Australia, Spain, Japan and the UK.
The schedule for the remaining online coffee auction is as follows:
El Salvador - June 16
Costa Rica - June 21
Guatemala - July 7
Honduras - July 12
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