Campos Coffee discusses its long-standing support of Cup of Excellence

Campos Coffee

Campos Coffee discusses its long-standing support of the Cup of Excellence program, the process of judging the competitions, and how the roaster brings some of the best coffee in the world to its customers.

According to Campos Coffee Head Roaster of Queensland Shawn Phua, there’s nothing quite like judging a Cup of Excellence (CoE) competition. He describes cupping in a producing country alongside international experts as “a once in a lifetime opportunity to develop sensory skills and learn how the regions in that country taste”.

“I have to pinch myself sometimes when I think about the fact that my job is to taste amazing coffees and travel around the world to do it,” Shawn says.

Shawn has roasted coffee for Campos Coffee for more than 15 years. He has judged CoE competitions for almost as long, thanks to his extensive experience in quality control and cupping.

“The last competition I judged was before the pandemic in Mexico. To be able to return to origin countries and judge the CoE Guatemala 2023 was so exciting,” Shawn says.

“It really gives you a renewed appreciation for what we do and all the hard work that goes into producing these coffees before it reaches us.”

Each year, farmers enter hundreds of coffees for pre-selection in CoE. They are put through a rigorous cupping process by a national jury, which is filtered down to about 80 samples. From there, the coffees are evaluated again for key attributes including flavour, sweetness, acidity, and balance.

These coffees must score at least 86 points to pass through to the international round, made up of a judging panel of at least 20 professionals.

“When we arrive, we’re lucky enough to taste the top 40 samples that have made it through all cupping rounds. Our job is to then filter those down to the top 28 coffees over four days. These are considered Cup of Excellence coffees,” says Shawn.

“The final day we’re cupping the top 10 coffees and trying to ascertain which coffee is the best of the best. Presidential- tier awards are presented to the coffees that score over 90 points.

“Those points make a big difference to the price that the coffee is auctioned for, which can massively impact the farmer’s quality of life.”

A return to origin for CoE judging in 2023 has provided Campos Coffee a chance to observe innovation initiatives taking place at farm-level.

This is represented by new coffee species, processing methods, and the exploration of a producing region customers may not be familiar with.

Shawn visited Finca La Bolsa farm in Huehuetenango, Guatemala prior to the CoE Guatemala 2023. He describes the experience as “incredibly eye-opening”.

“We purchase a lot of coffee from this farm and have a long-standing partnership with the farmers. We’ve worked with them for almost 10 years now,” he says.

“When you revisit the farms and see how the farmers have been able to purchase new equipment or build extensions to their farm because of their winnings from Cup of Excellence and where their coffees placed in the competition, you can see how much of an impact it really makes.”

Campos Coffee, Coffee Program Specialist Geoff Clark, visited El Salvador in June to take part in its 2023 CoE judging panel.

“The cupping experience was great, and the coffees are amazing. I’m a big fan of El Salvadorian coffee,” Geoff says.

Geoff says out of the top 30 coffees, the majority were process driven, which made it extremely hard to narrow down the results. “There were two washed coffees and one semi-washed, and everything else was natural, natural aerobic, or anaerobic honey. There were a lot of big flavours in there. On days where we had three cupping sessions and tasted 160 total cups, it was pretty overwhelming,” he says.

Geoff ended up grading the top scoring coffee, a semi-washed Pacamara variety from Finca Mileydi farm that scored 91.82 by the judging panel, as his favourite.

“I scored it a 92 or 93. This coffee wasn’t a process driven one, which is what made it stand out to me,” he says.

Campos Coffee purchased coffees from the El Salvador CoE auction in July and plans to release the coffees later this year.

“Every coffee in the auction is going to be an amazing coffee. There’s plenty to choose from” Geoff says.

According to Campos Coffee, the CoE specialty coffee competition has made an indelible impact on the specialty coffee landscape since its inception in 1999. It has provided a platform for the best producers in each origin to showcase innovative processes and unique varieties that offer a snapshot of the highest echelons of quality. For the winners, the prices paid can be life changing and for those lucky enough to taste them, it can be an eye opening and memorable experience.

Campos Coffee Head of Coffee Adam Matheson says Campos Coffee is proud to secure exquisite coffees because of its ongoing and long-standing commitment to the CoE, which it has supported since 2010. In that time, Campos Coffee has purchased more than 200 CoE coffees.

“We’re huge supporters of the Cup of Excellence program here at Campos, participating in both the judging panels and in auctions to bring some of the best coffees from around the world to our coffee community here in Australia,” says Adam.

Campos Coffee Founder Will Young sat on the Board of Directors at Alliance for Coffee Excellence, the group responsible for the operation of the CoE competitions, from 2017 to 2019. Adam says his involvement solidified the roaster’s long-lasting commitment to buying winning batches each year.

“I think we’re the biggest supporters of the program in Australia, maybe even in the Southern Hemisphere. Campos Coffee has also been involved in more than 70 [Cup of Excellence] international juries, and since COVID-19, our head office has been a global cupping centre for 10 Cup of Excellence competitions,” Adam says.

“We’ve spent well over US$2 million (almost AUD$3 million) on Cup of Excellence coffee since we started supporting the program.”

Adam says the most important thing that’s evolved through Campos Coffee’s involvement in CoE is the direct relationships it has established with farmers outside of the competition.

“It started with us buying their lots and now we’ve continued to support them beyond the event, buying more and trying their different coffees, even buying container loads. It’s not always about single origin, unicorn coffees. It’s about seeing what else the producer can supply and what potential there is to broaden the relationship. That’s the great thing about Cup of Excellence, it facilitates those relationships,” he says.

Adam says the purpose of Campos Coffee’s partnership with CoE and its coffee program is to educate its customers and consumers on what’s happening in the world of coffee and share it with them.

“We want them to know what’s going on, what different origins are producing, what innovative practices are taking place and what different coffees exist. That’s one of the reasons we buy from Cup of Excellence – just to share these amazing coffees with our customers,” he says.

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This article appears in the August 2023 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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