Top Brazil coffees judged berry-flavored, buttery

Fri Nov 13, 2009 4:14pm EST
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By Peter Murphy

MACHADO, Brazil (Reuters) - Some of the coffee world's most discerning palettes came together in the heart of Brazil's coffee belt on Friday to judge which brews in the world's top grower are best for an expanding specialty market.

After hours of painstaking swilling, spitting and note making this week, judges at the Brazilian round of the international Cup of Excellence competition whittled the field down to 11 finalists from 56 entries.

The judges said quality of the Brazilian coffee had improved this year despite a wet harvest period that spoiled large quantities of produce in the world's top grower.

"I honestly think the quality is much better this year. A lot of people told me quality would be lower because of the rains but the top-tier coffees are presenting much better characteristics than in other years," said chief judge Erwin Mierisch.

Cup of Excellence, sponsored in Brazil by the export promotion agency Apex, holds annual competitions to seek South and Central America's best produce. It aims to expand the market for high quality coffee to give growers the incentive to produce better beans.

Begun a decade ago to counter the perception that Brazil had little to offer beyond its large supply of bulk coffee, it has spread to other producers in the region. East African nation Rwanda now also takes part.

Judges paced up and down with silver spoons, sampling the line of coffees, each of which had been roasted for the same time and at the same temperature and ground in a machine cleaned repeatedly to avoid contamination. Their faces gave nothing away as they made notes in silence before moving on to the next sample.

"I immediately spotted one which was outstanding. I gave it a 97 score," out of a possible 100, said Vytautas Kratulis, director of Sviezia Kava, a roaster in Lithuania after the cupping process ended.   Continued...

<p>A judge smells the aroma of a specialty coffee at the Cup of Excellence competition in Machado November 13, 2009. National and international judges spent all week sniffing, savoring and spitting, in order to single out the best coffee in Brazil from the last 56 in the running during the annual Cup of Excellence. Despite heavy rains during harvesting that spoiled large quantities of Brazil's beans this year, judges said the quality of top tier coffees had improved. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker</p>