Barista Magazine

JUN-JUL 2018

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Page 21 of 107

F O A M : N E W S + T R E N D S AFTER RESTRUCTURING, ALLIANCE FOR COFFEE EXCELLENCE LOOKS TOWARD THE FUTURE IT'S A SUNNY TUESDAY IN Portland, Ore., and the offi ces of the Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE) are bustling. An international crowd of coffee professionals is in town to take a processing course from the Coffee Quality Institute, and ACE has opened its lab and offi ces to host the event. While this kind of collaboration between orga- nizations is not uncommon in the sharing-prone world of specialty coffee, it's evidence of a recent effort from ACE to become a more active member of the industry. "We realized we had been isolated in certain ways, and we decided to change that," says Darrin Daniel, who joined the Alliance for Coffee Excellence as executive director in January 2017, after serving for many years as a judge at Cup of Excellence competitions in producing countries. "We want to be tied to other organi- zations, and we want to play an active role in the discussions happening in our industry." This outlook is just part of a renewed focus from the Alliance for Coffee Excellence, the nonprofit organization that runs the Cup of Excellence (CoE) origin competitions honoring farmer excellence and rewarding exquisite coffees. ACE is cur- rently running a full slate of Cup of Excellence competitions, has launched a revamped global educational program, and is eyeing an expansion of CoE to additional countries in the near future. It's a pronounced turnaround for an organization that just a few years ago faced the biggest challenges in its history. FOUNDATION AND GROWING PAINS The Cup of Excellence program, originally called Best of Brazil, was founded in 1999 with the goal of helping farmers receive more money for their high-quality coffee. The team of coffee professionals who cre- ated the program included Susie Spindler, George Howell of George Howell Coffee Company, and Marcelo Vieira of the Brazilian Specialty Coffee Association. In 2002, Susie co-created the Alliance for Coffee Excellence to manage the growing CoE programs; she became ACE's executive director, and Marcelo its fi rst chairman. From the start, Cup of Excellence's goal has been to identify the highest-quality coffees in each country and sell them via auction. Roasters must become members of Cup of Excellence to bid in the auctions, and these membership fees are the primary funding for the Alliance for Coffee Excellence. (ACE is a 501(c)(6) nonprofi t.) When coffees are sold at auction, the vast majority of the proceeds go to the producers of the coffee. Cupping evaluations take place over three weeks for each competition—fi rst by a national jury of about a dozen qualifi ed jurors from the origin country, and then by an in- ternational jury of 20–25 experienced jurors from around the world. Coffees scoring 90 points and above (on the Cup of Excellence's custom-designed 100-point cupping form) earn the competition's esteemed Presidential Award for top quality. The Alliance for Coffee Excellence saw steady growth in the decade and a half after its founding, expanding the CoE program to 11 coun- tries to recognize high-quality coffees around the world. Shortly after Susie retired in January 2015, however, the organization—under new executive director Debbie Hill—scaled back the CoE competitions from 10 to fi ve for 2016, announcing that ACE would be revamping CoE's operations. "The organization was going through some fi nancial strains," says Darrin, "but scaling back the program didn't end up helping. When we went down to fi ve countries, we cut the revenue stream from six countries, and it became more expensive to operate in the countries we stayed in." Debbie Hill departed in February 2016, and Susie Spindler returned as interim executive director. One of Susie's fi rst actions was to restore the program in full; this took effect in 2017, with ACE holding 10 Cup of Excellence competitions. ACE hired Darrin Daniel in 2017, and he oversaw that year's competitions. "Once we restored the program, not only did we immediately begin to get caught up fi nancially, but it was a happy experience for the countries we work in," says Darrin. "All the countries wanted us back and were excited to have us. And we were able to return in a big way because the auctions were successful." The 2017 competition slate also saw CoE going to a new country, Peru, with excellent results. "Peru was exciting for everybody," Darrin says. "The quality of coffee was great—we had fi ve coffees earn Presidential Awards, and the average price for the entire auction was a little over $20 a pound." COMPETITION, EDUCATION, AND EXPANSION Moving forward, Darrin says ACE is focused on doing another full slate of competition, with 12 Cup of Excellence contests in 11 countries scheduled for 2018. The organization is also strengthen- When the Alliance for Coff ee Excellence's (ACE) board appointed Darrin Daniel (facing away from camera, in Ngozi, Burundi, for that country's CoE in the summer of 2017) to the position of executive director last year, Darrin faced the monumental charge of not only rebuilding key programs, but also expanding both the auction and educational outreach arms of ACE. "The competition and the awards are great, but the real impact is everything that happens a er it," Darrin says. "And where producers fi nd new avenues and new channels—that's where our real mission is." PHOTO COURTESY OF ACE 22 barista magazine

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