Brazil's Cup of Excellence Competition – Cup of Excellence Program
The structure of the Brazilian Cup of Excellence competition was pretty much the same as the other COE competitions I’ve done elsewhere around the world. The basic structure calls for Monday through Thursday being dedicated to the actual competition, with Friday devoted to re-cupping the top ten coffees and then capped by meetings with the farmers. Friday evening is the ceremony where the winning coffees are announced and their proud farmers accept their awards. Saturday and Sunday is usually devoted to field trips to meet the winning farmers at their farms (whenever possible), or visiting other growers and mills in the region to get a better idea of the agricultural practices in the region.
In Brazil, Monday was spent getting acquainted with the other judges and getting ourselves calibrated to each other and to the coffees. As part of the calibration process, we all did a series of cuppings of different solutions of acids and sugars dissolved in water (exciting stuff like how does malic acid compare to tartaric acid, and how does our perceptions of them change in the presence of sucrose?). We also did a couple of practice flights, cupping a range of coffees (good to awful) from Brazil that had been rejected from the competition. This really helped all of us acclimate our tasting and senses to the unique flavor profiles typically found in Brazil. Mondays are also used to get all of the cuppers – especially any cuppers new to the Cup of Excellence program - familiar with the specific cupping form used in the COE competitions (which may be different in structure and content to the cupping forms used by the cuppers at home).
Tuesday was the first day of actual cupping, where roughly half of the coffees were intensely tasted, followed by another full day of tasting on Wednesday where the other half was given its rigorous exam (you can think of both days as the quarter-finals). Thursday was reserved for re-cupping the top coffees from the previous two days (the semi-finals), with Friday being spent validating the top ten coffees, which were to become the most sought-after – and valuable – lots during the world-wide internet auction that follows every COE competition).