Notes from Brazil's Cup of Excellence Competition – Road to Machado

I arrived in-country at the airport in São Paulo on Sunday morning, after 17 hours of travel from Portland. Over the years I’ve gotten used to these long-haul flights, but was pretty tired nonetheless by the time I got to Brazil. A seeming common element of every Cup of Excellence competition that I have ever attended is that the competition is actually held somewhere out in the coffee regions, which never seem to be conveniently located adjacent to the airport. I’m secretly glad that this is how they are organized, as it is great to be out of the big cities and in the rural areas where the coffees are grown, but this almost always means an additional 3 or 4 hours travel by van or bus from the airport to the competition site. But after these long flights, all I really want is a shower and some food. And a couple of cups of nice coffee wouldn’t hurt my feelings!

The competition in Machado drew a pretty amazing group of Cup of Excellence judges from around the world. It was also a pretty big jury compared to other competitions I’ve attended, with over twenty international judges present. Many of the judges in Brazil I know quite well from their work in the industry or from having worked beside them at other COE competitions. But I was privileged to get to meet and work with some new (to me) judges, including Kyle Glanville (the U.S. barista champion from a couple of years ago, representing Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea), Charles Fleer (a U.S. trained specialty roaster who founded and runs La Bohème Café, a specialty coffee roaster based in Prague in the Czech Republic), John Jones (a dynamic and talented Welshman working for Kaffebrenneriet, an excellent specialty roaster based in Oslo, Norway), Addy Héðinsdóttir (founder of Kaffitar, Iceland’s premier specialty roaster) and Vytautas Kratulis (founder of Sviezia Kava, a specialty roaster in Vilnius, Lithuania). All together, an amazing group of cuppers and coffee aficionados that I felt privileged to hang out and work with.

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