50 coffees qualify for cup of excellence competition finals

Fifty different coffees have qualified for the final round of the Cup of Excellence competition which began yesterday, Sunday in Butare district.

Fifty different coffees have qualified for the final round of the Cup of Excellence competition which began yesterday, Sunday in Butare district.

Paul Songer, the head judge, described the competition as very tight, since most of the coffees were of quality.

The expert therefore said Rwandan coffee has the potential to compete on the international market.

He explained that most of coffees sampled by 16 cuppers (national jury) scored above 84 points—the minimum point required moving to next round.

“The winning coffees are cupped at least five different times during the competition process. But only coffees that continuously score highly enough are allowed to move forward,” Songer said.

According to Alex Kanyakole, the Director General of the Rwanda Coffee Development Authority (Ocir-café), the competition is a promotional strategy to realise high foreign exchange earnings since only high quality coffees make it to the finals.

“The aim is to export quality coffees that will bring about high returns—crucial for Rwanda, which seeks to reduce poverty levels among its 10 million people,” he explained.

The country is targeting a $50.9 million (Frw27.7 billion) from coffee unlike last year’s total revenue of $35.7 million (Frw19.4 billion).

The volume of fully washed coffee is also expected to grow from 3,000 tonnes to 10,000 tonnes in 2008.

Rwanda’s coffee quality has been improving over years after government embarked on promoting the exportation of only quality coffee.

Kanyakole explained that the expected increase coffee production and export earnings require a marketing strategy that takes into consideration quality improvement.

“The Cup of Excellence Competition is part of the marketing strategy for quality coffees expected to bring about high returns.”

Songer, also a private coffee sensory testing consultant from America, attributed the improvement in coffee quality to the success of last year’s national coffee competition,—dubbed the Golden Cup competition.

According to him (Songer), the competition served as a rehearsal and capacity building exercise to improve coffee quality.

The Jury
The national jury was trained about cupping and tipped on the general rules of cupping to avail those that are of better quality to face the international jury, with the assistance of two national cuppers.

The international jury is said to be highly competent in coffee cupping since are renowned coffee roasters, suppliers, and processors approved by the Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE).

The jury explores the sources and flavor parameters of fine coffee for proof of origin.

Their intervention judgment proves Rwandan coffee as of quality in relation to other coffees on the international market.
The final winners are awarded the prestigious Cup of Excellence prize and sold to the highest bidder during an internet auction.
Winning coffees will also be bought by coffee connoisseurs worldwide with discerning tastes who appreciate the complex flavor and aromatics found in a world class coffee.
Due to the proven profile for Rwandan coffee, the roaster who buys these coffees cares about providing the highest quality to his customers as well as creating a direct relationship with the winning farmer to keep providing the coffee – ensuring stable coffee market and profitability.
Winning coffees also establish personal and professional relationships between producers and roasters of fine coffees for business continuity thus realising further profits.  On average, $60 per coffee pound is the estimate bid of coffees sold at auctions.
Currently, Rwandan coffee is enjoyed by international consumers, with Europe providing the biggest market share of 50 per cent, Asia (10 per cent) and US (about 35 per cent).