Cupping for QualityApril 19, 2011
The Rainforest Alliance’s media outreach associate, Anna Clark, talks about our most recent Cupping for Quality, a biannual event that brings together a panel of coffee experts to evaluate the aroma and flavor of a variety of specialty coffees.
Curious to learn about how these cupping events benefit the coffee farmers who have worked hard to implement sustainable practices, I headed down to the InterContinental Exchange Grading Room in downtown Manhattan, where the event was taking place.
The first thing I noticed when I entered the lab was the rich aroma of coffee. Everything was quiet, except the sound of sipping as the cuppers evaluated the 76 coffee samples from 10 different origins. I was told that coffee samples are evaluated based on a variety of factors, including fragrance/aroma, uniformity, sweetness, clean cup, acidity, defects, flavor, body, balance and aftertaste.
I spoke with cupper Marty Curtis of Combustion Systems Sales & Service, who had prepared the samples and felt that this year’s selection were of a higher quality than last year’s. “Through cupping we can give feedback to farmers on how their coffee is performing, identifying defects and allowing farmers to improve the quality of their coffee,” he explained.
To record scores this year, cuppers used a cutting-edge iPod app, which was developed specifically to reduce paper waste during coffee grading. Cuppers commented that this also made recording scores much easier, and that it would be beneficial in the future, since scores can be indexed and compared on an annual basis.
When the cuppers broke for lunch, I spoke with long time champion of the Cupping for Quality, Linda Smithers, who noted that “certification needs to produce quality, and in the Rainforest Alliance’s case it does. When we taste coffee produced through best practices, we see a more consistently high quality product.”
To link sustainable farming with high-quality coffee, the Rainforest Alliance held its first Cupping for Quality event in 2003. Rainforest Alliance certification requires the implementation of strict criteria covering best social and environmental farm management practices and often leads to higher quality coffee (which can, in turn, command higher prices).
Results from the cupping will be announced on Friday, April 29th at the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Coffee Breakfast in Houston, Texas. Stay tuned to find out which farms produced the best coffee!
To learn more about how Rainforest Alliance certification improves the lives, lands and livelihoods of coffee-growing communities, check out the Rainforest Alliance’s sustainable coffee website, SealYourCup.