We have a little confession to make. When we are searching for great coffee at origin, we don’t always just fly to the country, get off the airplane and follow our super-sensitive noses up the mountainside to the best coffee farm in the country. Don’t tell anyone, but oftentimes we have help. One of our best guides in sourcing great coffee is the Cup of Excellence program. If you are not familiar with this program, here is its story.

The Cup of Excellence began in 1999 out of a desire to help reward coffee farmers for producing exceptional coffees. A group of industry professionals decided that one of the best ways to do this was to hold a national competition that would bring in coffee cuppers from across the world to find the best coffees in that particular country. After the competition, the winning coffees would be sold to roasters all over the world at an Internet auction.

After holding the first couple of competitions in Brazil, the coffee world started to catch on to the fact that this competition was doing an incredible amount of good for everyone involved. It was helping impoverished coffee farmers receive a sustainable price for their coffee. It was helping roasters connect with farmers who truly cared about producing exceptional coffee. And it was helping consumers realize the huge potential of this small bean. Now the Cup of Excellence program has been running for 10 years and has spread to 9 different coffee producing countries.

This week we are celebrating the launch of two new 1st Place Cup of Excellence Award Winners from El Salvador. The first of these coffees is El Pepinal 1, a mircrolot from Finca Las Mercedes in El Salvador.

Finca Las Mercedes won 1st place in the 2006 El Salvador Cup of Excellence with a record-breaking score of 94. Our relationship with the producers of El Pepinal 1, the Oritz family, began back in 2008. From their history with the Cup of Excellence, we knew they had great coffee, but it was not until we tasted it for ourselves that we realized how fortunate we were to roast and sell this spectacular coffee. Finca Las Mercedes is a very complex coffee. It has the distinct aroma of coriander seed and black currant. In the cup, it combines slight floral notes with a bright spiciness. Its effervescent acidity sparkles with notes of peach.

In addition to producing great coffee, Finca Las Mercedes has everything else that we look for in a Direct Trade farm. Obviously, the quality of their coffee is outstanding. They go to great lengths to insure that their coffee is as pure and clean as possible by processing the coffee on their farm. Their dedication to sustainable practices, both environmental and social, aligns well with our own commitment to sustainability. They do this by continually giving back to their community, constructing and supplying a school, providing food for a nursing home and supporting the local soccer team. PT’s Coffee has pitched in with their efforts to help the community by providing medicines for a local clinic and soccer balls for the local team.

The second coffee for this week’s celebration is a rock star in the world of specialty coffee. In 2003, Finca Kilimanjaro astounded the judges at the first El Salvador Cup of Excellence with its complex sweetness and exquisite aftertaste and mouthfeel. Aida Batlle, the producer of Finca Kilimanjaro, is growing a Kenyan variety in the volcanic highlands of El Salvador that is an absolute pleasure to drink.

Finca Kilimanjaro’s quality is a testament to the hard work and attention to detail of Aida Batlle and her workers. On visits to Finca Kilimanjaro, it is clear that she is intimately involved in every aspect of coffee production. She is not one cut corners or to skimp on quality. She also recognizes that imperative to producing quality coffee is paying her workers a sustainable wage. In fact, she pays her workers almost twice the normal wage.

Because of all of this hard work, this coffee knocks your socks off! Its aroma has exquisite floral and fruity notes that balance very well with its supple sweetness. It has a lingering aftertaste that is so clean and so smooth that it leaves you with a sense of wonder. We have a very limited supply of this great coffee, so buy a bag before it runs out! This coffee is in our Passport lineup, so be sure to check on the next roast date before ordering!

In addition to Finca Kilimanjaro, we will also receive a very small lot of Peaberry from Aida named Aida’s Grand Reserve. She sorts out only the best Peaberry from her three coffee farms to create this exquisite coffee. We will launch this coffee closer to the holiday season, so be sure to be on the lookout for it before it sells out!