Sustainable Coffees Recognized for High Quality at the Rainforest Alliance Cupping

January 9, 2013

Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms in Kenya, Peru and Colombia earned top scores at the Rainforest Alliance’s December Cupping for Quality, held at the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) Lab in Long Beach, California. This marks the tenth year that the Rainforest Alliance has hosted coffee cuppings to recognize farmers for their hard work producing high-quality, sustainable coffees.

A total of 51 coffees from nine origins were submitted to the December event, including the first-ever sample from Malawi. The highest score -- 87.1 points -- went to the Ndumberi Factory, a cooperative of smallholder farmers located in the Kiambu region of Kenya. Through Rainforest Alliance certification, the cooperative has adopted a systemized approach to training, which has improved the sustainability and quality of its production. Ndumberi is also unique in having its own wet mill with a cupping lab, allowing cooperative members to analyze quality and focus on quality control in tandem with sustainable production. 

coffee cup

More than 90 percent of the samples received scores above 80, the threshold for specialty coffee categorization according to the SCAA cupping protocol. This indicates that sustainable farming practices can contribute to the production of high-quality beans that brew a better tasting cup of coffee. Rainforest Alliance certification requires the adoption of a holistic set of standards that address social, environmental and economic issues on farms. 

“It’s very gratifying to see that sustainability and ever-improving quality can go hand-in-hand,” said Stephen Leach, cupper and Global Coffee Procurement Manager at Maranatha Import Export, which owns both the Gloria Jeans and It’s A Grind brands. “On farms that follow the principles of Rainforest Alliance certification, I have seen greater attention paid at every step along the way to produce green coffee. Quality, by default, improves.”

“The cupping is a great conduit for feedback to the farmers. I am happy to see that the trend upward in cup quality has continued year over year,” added Jeff Chean, cupper and Founder of Groundwork Coffee, a specialty and organic roaster based in Los Angeles.

The top ten scoring coffees:

Ndumberi Factory

Kenya

87.41

Tunki

Peru

86.91

El Silencio - Luis Fernando Arias Alzate

Colombia

86.88

Tegu Factory

Kenya

86.09

Quechua

Peru

86.00

Santo Tomas 2; Eibar Jose Rojas Pajoy

Colombia

85.44

Gichatha-ini Factory

Kenya

85.18

Ibonia Estate

Kenya

84.46

Coop Sol & Café

Peru

84.25

Yadini Estate

Kenya

84.23

Full results from the December 2012 Cupping for Quality can be found via the following link: http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/agriculture/crops/coffee/cupping-quality

A panel of 15 expert cuppers, representing North American coffee importers, roasters and retailers, evaluated the profile of each coffee according to aroma, acidity, uniformity and balance. Samples were roasted and prepared by Ted Vautrinot and Shawn Anderson of Kean Coffee and Andrew Phillips of Rose Park Roasters.

The cupper team:

  • Shawn Hamilton, Java City, Lead Cupper
  • Jorge Quintanilla, Allegro of Whole Foods Markets
  • Adam Kline, Atlantic Specialty
  • Michael Boyd, Boyd’s
  • David Pohl, Farmer Brothers
  • Jeff Chean, Groundwork
  • Yesenia Villota, InterAmerican
  • Jay Isais, International Coffee & Tea/Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
  • Ted Vautrinot, Kean Coffee
  • Steve Leach, Maranatha Import Export/Gloria Jeans
  • Catie Leach, Maranatha Import Export/Gloria Jeans
  • Nathalie Gabbay, RGC
  • Andrew  Phillips, Rose Park Roasters
  • Katie Gilmer, Sustainable Harvest
  • Heydy Manotas, Zephyr Green Coffee

"This was the most successful Rainforest Alliance cupping yet," said Maya Albanese, event hostess and associate of sustainable agriculture at the Rainforest Alliance. “In our tenth year of hosting these events, we’ve seen the quality of the cups and the enthusiasm of top national coffee cuppers increase dramatically. The Rainforest Alliance cupping has become one of the best vehicles in this market for showcasing coffee farms that have worked hard to adhere to strict sustainability criteria and improve the quality of their crops."

The Rainforest Alliance developed its Cupping for Quality program in 2003 to demonstrate the link between sustainable farming and cup quality. Cuppings take place twice per year to accommodate the various coffee harvest cycles around the world. Coffees from Central and South America will be evaluated in March during the Spring Cupping event. The top ten scorers for both cuppings will be awarded at the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Coffee breakfast event at 7:30 am on Friday April 12th, 2013 at the annual SCAA Exposition in Boston, Massachusetts.