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ACE to scale back Cup of Excellence competitions in 2016

The Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE) has announced it is suspending the Cup of Excellence competitions in five countries as it revamps the program’s operations. The announcement states that the 2016 program will only include Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras, while they fine tune the program.

ACE announced the changes in a letter to its membership signed by the Board of Directors’ Chair Geoff Watts, who described the scaling back of the program as temporary.

ACE produces the Cup of Excellence, which was first launched in 1999 in Brazil and has since grown to include programs in 10 coffee-producing countries.

“As you know, the Cup of Excellence competition has existed for sixteen years – says the letter dated July 17, 2015 – Much has changed in that time, in both the specialty coffee world and the world of technology.
The time has now come for ACE to “fine-­‐tune” and upgrade the COE process. As part of a long-­‐term strategic plan, our focus will be on four items:
• developing a new auction platform
• updating existing competition standards and protocols
• creating and implementing an electronic cupping form, and
• improving post-­‐auction logistical issues with respect to deliveries of purchased lots

We hope to have these new COE pieces in place for the 2016 competition season. The goal, of course, is to increase the auction prices paid to farmers and ensure that COE coffees continue to represent the pinnacle of excellence.

The changes we are implementing are exciting, and we believe they will result in more opportunities for coffee growers, more incredible coffees, and far better customer service for buyers. All of the planned improvements are designed with the express purpose of making sure the Cup of Excellence that we all care so much about can continue to be the most impactful coffee quality program in the industry.

Given our staff size, however, it is very difficult to institute these changes while still maintaining a full COE schedule next year. As a result, the ACE Board of Directors has determined that it is necessary to scale back the COE competition schedule for 2016.

This is a temporary move, one that we expect will result in even bigger and better competitions in 2017 and future years. In 2016, COE competitions will be held in the following five countries: Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras.

Once we have implemented the new auction platform and competition standards in these countries next year, we intend to significantly scale up again, with COE competitions in many of the same countries we have worked with in the past, and hopefully new countries as well.

“Our decision to temporarily scale back COE competitions in 2016 was a very difficult one for the board – concludes the letter – We understand that this decision will impact farmers in countries without a COE program next year, and will also mean that in 2016, there will be fewer COE coffees for our members to buy.

Ultimately, however, the board determined that this step was necessary to ensure that program changes can be successfully implemented and consistently replicated across all country programs. We have had personal conversations with all of our partner organizations to inform them of these decisions, and we very much appreciate their cooperation and understanding during this transition period.”