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Certified Sustainable Coffee Recognized for Outstanding Quality: Results from Rainforest Alliance Cupping for Quality Events Announced at SCAA Conference

May 7, 2007

The Rainforest Alliance has announced the results of two recent Cupping for Quality events, where a panel of independent coffee experts evaluated coffee from nearly 100 Rainforest Alliance Certified farms in 11 countries at the headquarters of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) in Long Beach, California.

Top scorers from the cupping events, which took place last month and last December, included farms from Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Nicaragua and Mexico. With all countries represented receiving an average score of more than 80, which is the threshold to receive specialty status, the results of the cupping events show that sustainable farming practices produce high-quality coffee.

"When farmers are meeting a set of holistic standards covering soil and water conservation and good worker treatment, those responsible practices result in the production of better beans," said Sabrina Vigilante, senior marketing manager in the Rainforest Alliance's sustainable agriculture program. "These results show that a range of industry experts agree. Put simply: Sustainable practices yield a premium product."

The top-scoring farms were announced at the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Coffee Breakfast last Saturday at the Specialty Coffee Association of America conference in Long Beach, California. Farms earning some of the highest marks included:

Man Tasting Different Coffees
  • La Esmeralda, Panama, 90.04
  • Carmen Estate Coffee S.A., Panama, 88.96
  • Santa Teresa, El Salvador, 88.25
  • Finca Medina, S.A., Guatemala, 87.46
  • Grupo Aguadas de Caldas, Colombia, 87.04
  • Grupo Associativo de caficultores de Teruel Procafe, Colombia, 87.04
  • El Recreo, Nicaragua, 87
  • La Bastilla, Nicaragua, 86.79
  • Grupo Aranzaau de Caldas, Colombia, 86.68
  • Los Pirineos, El Salvador, 86.33
  • Finca Santa Elisa, Guatemala, 85.79
  • Morros Culebras y Delicias, Colombia, 85.57
  • Finca Fortuna, Panama, 85.38
  • Monte Sion, El Salvador, 85.38
  • Finca El Platanillo, Guatemala, 85.25
  • Finca Porvenir, El Salvador, 85.25
  • Kachalu, Colombia, 85.14
  • Las Mercedes, El Salvador, 85.13
  • Grupo Colinas de Café, Subgrupo Riseralda, Colombia, 85.04
  • Nuevo Mexico, Mexico, 84.92
  • Guadalupe Zaju, Mexico, 84.82
  • San Rafael, Nicaragua, 84.75
  • Finca Nueva America, Guatemala, 84.71
  • Finca Muxbal, Mexico, 84.68
  • La Virgen, RAMACAFE, Nicaragua, 84.39
  • Finca Copalita, Mexico, 84.36
  • Monimbo, Nicaragua, 84.36
  • San Martin, Nicaragua, 84.35
  • Adopta un Cafetal, Mexico, 84.18

Note: The names of some top-scoring farms are not included because their release forms are pending.

Average scores of Rainforest Alliance Certified farms in each participating country:

  • Panama 88.13
  • Costa Rica 84.26
  • El Salvador 83.94
  • Guatemala 83.52
  • Nicaragua 82.84
  • Colombia 82.65
  • Mexico 82.10
  • Ethiopia 81.99
  • Honduras 81.33
  • Brazil 81.08
  • Peru 80.51

Improved cultivation and processing techniques on Rainforest Alliance Certified farms result in higher quality beans. Our standards encompass all aspects of coffee production and include requirements such as pesticide reduction, soil and water conservation, and worker protection, which all translates into better growing conditions for coffee.

For example:

Man in a rainforest
  • Forest cover is a critical element in producing quality coffee. Our standards require farms that are located in areas where the original natural vegetative cover is forest to establish and maintain permanent shade that is distributed homogenously throughout the farm, with a minimum of 70 trees per hectare and a shade density of at least 40 percent.
  • Workers who are treated well and invested in their work care more about picking quality coffee. Our standards require farms to have a social policy that declares their compliance with labor laws and international agreements and summarizes the rights and responsibilities of the administration and workers. The policy must be shared with workers and emphasize labor aspects, living conditions, basic services, occupational health and safety, training opportunities and community relations.

The following judges evaluated the coffee:

  • Ted Lingle, executive director, SCAA (led the panel and also roasted the coffee)
  • Linda Smithers, president, Susan's Coffee & Tea (and former SCAA president)
  • Chad Trewick, senior director of coffee and tea, Caribou Coffee
  • Karen Cebreros, founder and president, Elan Organic Coffees
  • Kenneth Davids, co-founder, The Coffee Review
  • Lowell Grosse, owner, Charleston Coffee Roasters, Inc.
  • Shawn Hamilton, vice president, production operations, Java City
  • Cyrille Jannet, coffee trader, AMSA Mexico
  • Carl Walker, founder and president, Walker Coffee Trading
  • Tobey Foreman, roastmaster, It's a Grind Coffee
  • Aimee Bullington, quality control, VOLCAFE Specialty Coffee
  • Tina Berard, Vice President, Atlantic Specialty Coffee
  • Rocky Rhodes, founder, Rocky Roaster
  • Christy Thorns, Allegro
  • Rebecca Sanborn, Business Development, Elan Organic Coffees
  • Ric Rhinehart, Groundwork
  • Marcel Clement, Rainforest Alliance

The judges used the SCAA cupping form and protocol and used 10 criteria worth a maximum of 10 points each. They evaluated coffees for fragrance/aroma, flavor, aftertaste, acidity, body, uniformity, balance, cleanliness, sweetness and overall impression. Cuppers were told the country of origin of the coffees, altitude, processing/milling details, varietal and harvesting period.

Rainforest Alliance Certified coffees have consistently earned high marks at international cupping events. Last year, 12 lots of Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee earned the coveted Q grade at a cupping organized by the Coffee Quality Institute in Guatemala. To make the grade, coffees must score at least 80 points of a possible 100 and have no primary defects. Also last year, for the second year in a row, the winner of the World Barista Championship featured Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee in his drinks. The winning barista, Klaus Thomsen, used coffee from Daterra, which was the first farm in Brazil to earn Rainforest Alliance certification. The 2005 winner, Troels Overdal Poulsen, also used Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee from Daterra.

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