The annual PCCA Cupping Competition is always one of my favorite events to attend each year. This year we cupped ten different Guatemalan coffees, and I was very impressed with the overall quality of the coffees.
Before the cupping competition began, Eduardo Ambrocio, Master Cupper for Anacafe (Guatemalan National Coffee Association), presented facts to us about the current state of affairs for Guatemalan coffee. It is exciting to see that the production of the higher quality beans (Strictly Hard Beans or SHB’s) has increased over the past fifteen years, while the production of the lesser quality beans has decreased. As a company that is always looking for the best quality beans we can get our hands on, this is encouraging for us to see. In the 2007-2008 crop year, 3.82 million 60-kilograms bags of SHB Guatemalan coffee were exported, as opposed to roughly 1.3 million bags in the 1995-1996 crop year. I have always been a big fan of Guatemalan coffee, and I was pleased to hear about the strides they are making in terms of high-quality coffee production.
We tasted the ten Guatemalan coffees that the pre-judges determined to be the best of the entire group. When judging these coffees, we are asked to rate each one on a scale from one to ten based on aroma, acidity, body, and flavor. Once we tally up our final scores, we then rank the coffees from best to worst, which takes care of any ties we may have. The aroma of the very first coffee I tasted was remarkable. It turned out to be my highest ranked coffee in terms of aroma and one of my top three choices for the overall best coffee on the table. It is quite interesting for me to taste so many coffees with such similar characteristics. That is what our importer does on a regular basis, but most of the time, we taste coffees from different origins to see what flavors will work best for a specific situation. I had three coffees that were so close in terms of all four categories that I honestly had a hard time ranking one over another. Most of the coffees were extremely sweet, which is quite common for Guatemalan coffees. There were only a couple coffees I did not care for.
The winner of the Cupping Competition will be announced in September at the annual PCCA Convention at Silverado Resort in Napa, California. There is no telling how I did since my scores and rankings will be compared to that of the pre-judges. Everyone has different likes and dislikes when it comes to coffees, so I just have to hope my scores match up the best with those of the judges. In future blogs, I will be focusing on all aspects of espresso. This will cover the espresso beans themselves, the proper grind, pulling the perfect shot, and proper techniques for steaming milk for all different types of drinks. Until next time!