Hello from Kenya!
Just finished up with Burundi Cup of Excellence last night and whoa what a busy, crazy week! Cup of Excellence usually arrange a lot of activities after cupping and as we are on Africa time, we were usually running about 2 hours behind schedule due to power outages and general lateness. This resulted in zero down time. A nice example of a trip we had was when we were supposed to visit some washing stations; the driver was an hour and a half late to pick us up, then we got a flat tyre 15 minutes into the trip which took about 30 minutes to fix, we then got driven 2 hours in the wrong direction, almost making it to the Rwandan border, then we drove back 2 hours to the hotel without seeing anything!
The competition started on the Monday with a calibration cupping and then we spent the next two days cupping through 60 coffee's selected by the National Jury. The International Jury was really great as it was made up of people from all over the world, with very different palates. It's also a great chance to meet new people from the small world of specialty coffee. Together through cupping, the International Jury cut out 20 coffee's, then we recupped the top 40 on the Thursday, this resulted in 27 coffee's cupping above an 85 to make it into the auction. A great result as last year Burundi only had 14 coffee's qualifying for the auction! A huge change in one year! Last years auction coffee's were riddled with the potato defect. However, it helped the government and the farmers recognise that there was a problem and they acted by spraying and this year there was hardly any potato defect on the cupping tables. On the final day we re cup the top 10. This is always fun as they are stunning coffee's.
The weather was hot, the surroundings were green and tropical and the mosquito's were ferocious! I cant say Ive been eating too great either, we have been fed from what we were calling the 'starch buffet' for breakfast lunch and dinner. Lots of bread, rice, potato's and bananas. I just have to remember that Burundi is the 7th poorest country in the world and that stops me from complaining. I also now only drink soft drink and 750 ml bottles of beer.
I met lots of new contacts in Burundi and will be bringing home lots of samples. Because the jury is made up with people from all over the world (Italians, Americans, Norwegians, Japanese, English), we have very different palates and liked very different coffee. All the scores are averaged out, so if a few people scored a coffee really low, it did not get in the competition. This resulted in a few coffee's not getting in that I loved! Sometimes I was left scratching my head at why some people were x-ing stunners, but you have to remember that the International Jury reflects the global market and they are the people who are going to be buying Cup of Excellence and that its OK to like different things. I do however feel that if you are absolutely bombing a coffee you should be able to describe the defects!
I'm in Kenya now, only for a few days. Heading to the hills tomorrow to visit the Maywal Washing station - a coffee which we currently have. I've got some of their coffee roasted by Seven Seeds with me and I'm going to brew them all up some to taste - a lot of farmers have never tasted their own coffee!
It's all happening,