This month’s Wired magazine published a piece on this year’s Cup of Excellence (CoE) competition in Colombia: Sip, Spit, Grade: Coffee Experts Crown Colombia’s Best Beans | Magazine. Opening with the Q-grading Alberto Trujillo and Intelligentsia‘s Geoff Watts, the article describes the Cup of Excellence process and a little of its short history. It also mentions last year’s Finca La Loma “scandal” involving some Caturra for Castillo varietal slight-of-hand.
The article then belabors the decidedly old art of coffee cupping (am I reading Wired or the Smithsonian Magazine?) We’ve had our past issues with Wired magazine’s editorial choices. As a magazine noted for its futuristic and tech-obsessed bombast, we’re puzzled as to why something as decidedly old and low-tech as a coffee cupping somehow makes the grade for a feature story. The article cites chief CoE judge, Paul Songer, saying he “believes that coffee gourmandism has the potential to rival oenophilia’s cultish obsessiveness.” And yet we’ve never seen a Wired article devoted to wine tasting.
Perhaps a clue as to why Wired‘s editorial board continues to see coffee as relevant to their magazine can be found in a quote from Susie Spindler, the executive director of the Alliance for Coffee Excellence, who developed to CoE format: “Cup of Excellence has completely changed the infrastructure of how coffees are sold.” It has certainly changed quality coffee marketing and how the precious, limited stocks of CoE beans are sold. But given their meager supply compared to the overall coffee market and the consumer demand for coffee, how many coffee consumers make Cup of Excellence coffees a regular habit?
However, the most poignant part of the article comes at the end. Colombian coffee farmer, Arnulfo Leguizamo, celebrates winning this grand national competition — something that respected experts have called “the Oscars of the coffee world” as recently as a few months ago. But you won’t find designer dresses, red carpets, and limousines at this competition. Mr. Leguizamo’s response to winning the title? “Now I can pay my debts.”
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