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The Competition

Posted on 2008.03.06 at 09:48
Cupping is in full swing here in Addis Ababa. We've found a few gems on the table already, though the overall number of samples is not what we had hoped it would be. Up to this point, we have been cupping only fully washed coffees. Later today begins the round of sundried natural coffees.

I've given out just two 90+ scores so far, though the rest of the coffees are more often in the 85-87 range rather than say, 79-80. So the overall quality is quite excellent, though we are still waiting to be completely blown away by something. Many of the coffees from some regions are still very green, and they seem like they will improve with a little more rest.

Because of my position in this project, I have had an interesting experience. There are four main organizers of the cupping: Amare from the Ethiopian Coffee Exporters Alliance; Daniel Mulu from Boot Coffee; Willem Boot; and myself. (There are many, many others involved in all the other stages of putting this together, but I speak here of only the cupping sessions per se.) Of these four people, two are Ethiopians and are thus disqualified from knowing which coffee is which to avoid any possible conflict of interest. Willem Boot is acting as head judge and is likewise kept in the dark. I have been left with the task of secretly coding all the coffees for blind cupping.

I have done my best to really mix up the various offerings, both to separate lots submitted by the same exporters or washing stations, and to trick myself into forgetting which is which. So the cupping for me is semi-blind. This whole process I fear keeps me from making a 100% blind assessment of each sample. By the end of the day I had forgotten which was which. But in the first round, for example, I knew for certain two of the coffees on the table were from a particular operation with an excellent reputation for top quality. How much did this knowledge influence my scores? I cannot say. Thankfully, I have found my scores to be within range of the other totally blind cuppers. Mental gymnastics of a sort, I suppose.

What I haven't mentioned so far is our trip to Bahir Dar. We visited a very interesting operation on the Zege peninsula (this in the northern Amhara region of the country). But the absolute highlight had to be our trip to a 700 year-old Orthodox Christian monastery on an island in the middle of Lake Tana where the monks grow coffee.

This story I will save for its own post once I return to New York next week and can devote the time (and photos) it deserves. But as Willem put it as we were headed back from the island mountaintop to the boat, "Any coffee plantation, no matter the location and no matter the backstory, will be just another coffee plantation after seeing this."

For now, it's back to the cupping table.


neiloney at 2008-03-06 17:43 (UTC) (Link)
That sounds amazing.

So will you be bringing back any of these so we can invade Gimme again?
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