The Cup of Excellence Competition is kind of like the Olympics of coffee. Commonly abbreviated as COE, you could safely say it's a pretty big deal in the coffee world. In a weird twist that’ll leave any coffee connoisseur scratching their head, Ethiopia has only hosted a national COE twice, mostly due to a lack of sponsorship (read more about this in the “Farm Bio” tab). So in an effort to promote small coffee farmers in the region, Royal Coffee bought all 22 of the National Jury Selection lots from this year’s competition. These were the 22 highest scoring submissions that didn’t move on to the international auction round. As a small business, we admire Royal’s commitment to sponsoring these producers and decided to join in by picking up one of these lots ourselves! But let’s be honest, it was an easy decision. If it made it to the national round of COE in Ethiopia of all places, it’s an easy bet that it’ll be amazing coffee.
But we decided to take it one step further and grab a selection from a sub-region that we’d never had the pleasure of sampling before: West Arsi. Located on the western border of Sidama in the Oromia region, West Arsi has a mostly arid climate with just a few tiny pockets that get the right amount of rainfall to support coffee production. Wouldn't ya know it, Adem Haro Bararto just so happens to have a farm in one of these tiny pockets and he’s determined to put his home on the map. Well if this cup is anything to go on, we’ll definitely be sourcing more coffee from West Arsi in the future! It’s silky, clean and bright with just a touch of tang, kind of like when you pick berries that are a little early, but you just can’t stand waiting any longer. This tang is balanced with lovely, juicy sweetness. Speaking of berries, we got notes of fresh raspberry with just a touch of blueberry, though I wouldn’t call this one a berry bomb. Mostly because there are also notes of nectarine, lemonade and cocoa that keep the berry from hogging the spotlight, so I’d put it more in the category of a general fruit bomb. Overall, I’d consider this coffee a “must try” for fans of Ethiopia coffee, especially those who love fruity natural processed coffees!
Reminder! This coffee is raw, you must roast it before brewing
Arrival Date: December 14th, 2023 US Arrival: Fall 2023
Acidity & Brightness: Bright and slightly tangy, very sweet
Balance & Finish: Moderately balanced with a clean, refreshing finish
Body & Texture: Mediumt to Full bodied, silky
Flavors: Raspberry, nectarine, lemonade, cocoa and blueberry
Grade: Grade 1 grown at 1700 - 2300 masl
Processing: Natural (dry) processed, sun dried on raised beds
Grower: Adem Haro Bararto
Region: Nansabo district, West Arsi Zone, Oromia Region
Varieties: Indigenous cultivar 74112
Recommended Roast Range: City to Full City (Light to medium)
Start at City (light) or just in to a rolling first crack and go a bit darker as desired. We find it best not to go any darker than Full City (Medium, after the end of first crack) and our favorite roasts were ones that ended under a minute into first crack. Lighter roasts will be a bit more tangy and vibrant with more clear fruit tones while still maintaining sweetness. Medium roasts will have more sounded sweetness but with muddier flavor notes while minimizing tang.
Royal Coffee - " West Arsi zone wraps around the northern border of Sidama, and while countless coffee buyers have traversed it on their way to Sidama and Yirgacheffe, it remains obscure to many of them as a producing area of any note. Border regions like these that are just outside of more famous coffee terroirs are often sold as their neighbor—a tradition not at all uncommon in the coffee world and which in Ethiopia used to affect not only West Arsi but also Guji, Illubabor, and Gelana Abaya, all of which were commonly sold under other names prior to developing their own reputation. West Arsi is mostly arid and transitional terrain that slopes from Ethiopia’s Rift Valley to the highland forest plateau of Sidama and Gedeo zones. Being Ethiopia, there are of course pockets of high-quality coffee to be found, naturals in particular.
Adem Haro Bararto’s coffee was a national jury selection at this year’s Cup of Excellence (COE) competition. Adem is 45 years old and with 10 children and 15 years of farming experience. Adem’s property is 6.5 hectares, planted entirely with coffee, considered quite large for Ethiopia. This natural process microlot was handpicked and dried on raised beds on Adem’s own property, carefully supervised and sorted specifically for the COE competition.
The world’s first Cup of Excellence competition took place in Brazil in 1999 and quickly became known as the world’s best discovery mechanism for quality. Each competition is origin-specific and involves multiple national selection rounds, a final competition with an international judging panel, and an online auction for the top 30 high-scoring submissions. All submissions are cupped blind throughout the entire competition, leaving judges only the cup quality to assess, and each submission is cupped up to five times. Winning producers are often fabulously rewarded with record-setting prices for their coffee, not to mention lifelong status for such an achievement. The competition has revealed countless innovative processing styles, rare cultivars, and obscure producing areas to the rest of the world for the first time.
Ethiopia is of course well-known for having an incredibly high status quo for quality. Ironically, due to lack of sponsorship and an established single-farmer marketplace, the COE has only been held here twice. Royal has been a longtime supporter of maximum traceability in Ethiopia via whatever tools are available. This year we are buying and importing the entire national selection round ourselves—that is, all 22 top-scoring submissions that did not go to international auction. The enthusiasm of Ethiopia’s gifted smallholders means there are a lot of excellent coffees to be appreciated beyond the competition’s top 30 that go to auction. In the COE format small growers typically submit fully processed and dried but un-milled lots of coffee, which are then centrally milled and stored during the auction’s multi-week procession. All national jury selects were purchased by Royal with a flat farmgate price of $4.50 per pound of green coffee directly to the farmers.”