Q&A: Caitlin McCarthy-Garcia at the Cup of Excellence

Right now, our Associate Green Coffee Buyer, Caitlin McCarthy Garcia, is on her way to Honduras as a Jury Observer for the annual Cup of Excellence. The competition is a critical one that takes place in many of the countries we buy from, and the process is a fascinating one. As a Jury Observer, Caitlin will spend her week cupping and scoring coffee, visiting exporters, farms, and producing regions across Honduras. Recently, we caught up with Caitlin for a more thorough peek into the competition. 

Where is the Cup of Excellence?

The Cup of Excellence is a competition that takes place in 11 producing countries: Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Rwanda, and Burundi.

How does it work?

The first round of the competition is held on a national scale, and coffees are included in the final round of international competition based on whether they are scored as 85 and above. International cuppers and buyers, primarily from Japan, Taiwan, Scandinavia, Australia, Canada and US taste and score the coffees and are referred to as the "Jury."

How to you get to be a part of the Jury?

In order to become a full-fledged Jury member you spend your first competition as a "Jury Observer," and based upon how calibrated your scores are with the rest of the Jury you are invited back to participate. As a Jury Observer I will participate in all cupping/scoring/activities, but my scores will not be included in the final tally that determines the winners.

What's the purpose of the competition?

The purpose is really threefold; first and foremost it rewards the farmers hard work and determination to produce a beautiful coffee. Second, the competition increases demand and selling price for award-winning coffees, in addition to bringing attention to growing regions identified as producing high quality coffees. Third, the competition creates exceptionally tasty lots that connect producers to buyers through its transparent sharing of scores and farm information, plus award winning lots are marketable to consumers through a quantitative analysis of quality.

The Cup of Excellence is organized by the non-profit, Alliance for Coffee Excellence. For more information, see their website