Colombia CoE #15 Pink Bourbon
- August 2019
- Written by : Geoff Watts
Vice President of Coffee / Coffee Buyer
The Olympics of Coffee
The Cup of Excellence, or “CoE,” is the coffee industry’s most prestigious and professional quality competition. Since its first contest in 1999, it has established itself as the gold standard for coffee quality events and developed an international reputation for its transparency and transformative impact. There is no other coffee competition in the world that comes close to the rigor and discipline of a CoE. Every coffee goes through a minimum of five separate rounds to reach the final. In the course of a competition more than one hundred cups get tested. It is, by several orders of magnitude, the most thoroughly vetted coffee you will every encounter. Even a single defect can cause a lot to be eliminated from the competition, and more than three dozen individual tasters from different countries need to agree on a coffee’s extreme quality for it to make it through to the end of the competition. From up to 800 entries or more, only 20-30 coffee make it to the auction. It is extremely hard to win a CoE.
The CoE competition is operated by a non-profit organization called The Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE), which was created as a vehicle to catalyze positive change in the coffee industry. Since its inception, its work has always been rooted in the notion that quality is fundamental to creating value for growers. The ACE mission — “discover and reward exceptional quality coffee farmers” — has guided its evolution over the past 20 years. In that time, it has helped thousands of individual farmers enter the specialty market and establish lasting relationships. Along the way, it has fostered an international community of quality-focused coffee roasters who help support the mission.
The impact ACE has had on the specialty coffee industry is immense. By some estimates, it contributed hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue to coffee farmers in Latin America alone over the span of a decade. But arguably the more powerful and lasting result of its work has been to change the conversations in the industry about both the value of quality and its provenance.
Prior to the establishment of the CoE, the global specialty marketplace relied largely on assumption when considering what a pound of incredible tasting coffee was worth, following obsolete tradition when seeking to locate the best qualities in each producing country. The fact that some regions — like Antigua in Guatemala or Matagalpa in Nicaragua — were consistently achieving higher premiums for their coffees was a result of historical circumstance and colonial-era consolidation of privilege rather than any real intrinsic quality advantage. CoE provided the industry’s first truly blind and equal-opportunity platform for coffees to compete on their merits rather than reputations, and in doing so was able to lift entire regions out of the shadows and onto center stage.
Thanks in part to the work of ACE places like Dipilto in Nicaragua, Huila in Colombia, and Huehuetenango in Guatemala have become known worldwide as hotspots for quality and go-to sources for buyers looking for extraordinary coffees.
To read an independent assessment of the impact of COE, click HERE.
Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years
Pink Bourbon. It even sounds tasty. This variety, a natural mutation of the storied Bourbon variety that traveled to Colombia in the 1800’s from a small island off the east coast of Africa, has been causing quite a stir in the country over the past couple years since its (re)discovery. For decades the local coffee culture in Colombia has been trending towards hybrids — first the Colombia variety and more recently Castillo — promoted by the National Coffee Growers Federation for their disease resistance, vigor, and productivity. But in recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest among farmers in testing varieties with more differentiated flavor potential. Among the various coffee types that have attracted attention, Pink Bourbón that has been gaining the most traction of late. And for good reason: when planted at high elevation and nurtured carefully, it is capable of producing downright mouthwatering flavors that harken back to a time when farmers cultivated mostly heirloom types.
Miguel Ángel Botina Cerón is a farmer who has embraced the movement toward celebrating diversity in coffee type. In recent years, he has planted several traditional types in his farm, including both Typica — the coffee that first populated Colombia and helped establish its reputation for quality for over a century before vanishing from the landscape — and Caturra, the coffee that Juan Valdez made famous through ad campaigns beginning in the 1960’s. But the star among them at the moment is Mr. Pink, a Bourbon accession that ripens to a reddish-pink color and has been captivating local and international cuppers for the last several years with its tantalizing cup profile.
In Colombia’s 2019 CoE, for which I had the privilege of serving as one of more than 20 jurors, this Pink Bourbon was described as having flavor and aroma traits of berry, cherry, mango, grape, passionfruit, strawberry, and sugarcane. It is a juicy, complex, profoundly enjoyable coffee with mesmerizing tropical fruit tastes and bountiful sugars. Produced with care and meticulous attention to detail by Don Miguel at his small farm La Miel (“The Honey”) in San Agustín, Huila, this coffee is a treasure that we are honored to showcase. Felicitaciones,, Miguel! We congratulate you on your success in the competition, and thank you for producing such a delightful coffee!