The Cup of Excellence (COE) competition, established in 1999, has become a leading grower’s competition in 13 coffee-producing countries. The Cup of Excellence is organised by the Alliance for Coffee Excellence, which was founded by George Howell and Susie Spindler. The competition grew out of an initiative by the International Coffee Organisation intended to promote specialty coffee. Its unique scoresheet was designed by US coffee roaster George Howell. The scoresheet subdivides the profile of a cup into eight categories. This groundbreaking 100-point scoring was the first numerical scoring system for specialty coffee.
Each category is assigned a score in the range of 0 through 8. The subtotal is marked out of a possible 64, but the final total is scored out of possible 100. To bring the final total up to a score out of 100, 36 points are added to the subtotal. The most unique feature of the COE is their inclusion of the sweetness category, where the quality of sweetness is scored on an 8-point scale. They define a sweetness that is desirable as one that evokes a sense of ripeness.
Here is a link to download a copy of the COE protocols which Howell produced for the competition in 2002.
Interview with Stephen Leighton
To get a better idea why the scoresheet is designed this way we spoke to roaster and former COE sensory panelist Stephen Leighton. Stephen founded Has Bean coffee in Staffordshire, England; he is co-owner of Drop Coffee in Stockholm, Sweden; and he has purchased more Cup of Excellence coffee than anyone we know.