13 Mar 2020

Not only fair but of the finest quality

The Taza Dorada Fairtrade (Fairtrade Golden Cup) awards bring recognition – and new opportunities – to farmers who work hard to produce high-quality Fairtrade coffee.

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A judge at the Colombian Fairtrade Golden Cup Awards

Federación Campesina del Cauca, a Fairtrade certified coffee cooperative from south-western Colombia, was named overall winner of the first annual Colombian Fairtrade Golden Cup Awards, judged by an expert panel of nine international judges.

The cooperative’s coffee, scoring 89.64 points, beat out stiff competition from a field of 79 samples submitted by 31 Fairtrade coffee cooperatives from Colombia.

The event was organized by the Fairtrade Producer Network for Latin America and the Caribbean, CLAC, with two aims: motivating farmers to improve the quality of their coffee, and raising awareness among buyers in the specialty coffee sector about the availability of high quality Fairtrade coffee. It also provided an opportunity for farmers to exchange information and share best practices.

The contest’s finalists saw their coffee auctioned to specialty coffee buyers on 12 March via the online platform Beyco. The sale was open to any roaster or trader registered on the platform.

Bringing Fairtrade coffees to the specialty coffee market

Specialty coffee is cupped, judged and scored for quality on a 100-point scale. Today, more and more Fairtrade certified coffees are reaching or exceeding the 84-point mark, which denotes excellence in specialty coffee. As a result, Fairtrade coffees are attracting growing attention from specialty coffee traders and roasters. This also translates into better remuneration due to the higher market price for specialty coffee, making it a profitable business for farmers.

However, the road to producing speciality coffees is not an easy one. For years, Fairtrade has been working alongside certified coffee cooperatives from around the world to boost the quality of their beans in order to help them access the speciality market. Numerous initiatives have been led by Fairtrade Producer Networks in Africa, Asia and Latin America, through training and other activities at cooperative level. These include trainings in areas such as best practices in production, harvest and coffee processing, as well as cupping sessions, enabling producers and cooperative staff to learn about how to assess the quality of their coffees.

In addition, Fairtrade has been a regular fixture at the most relevant annual specialty coffee trade shows, organizing cupping sessions and raising awareness about the quality and diversity of Fairtrade certified coffees. These include the annual Specialty Coffee Association conferences in the U.S. and Japan, World of Coffee in Europe, and Café Show in South Korea.

Growing top quality coffee not only requires learning new skills but often also entails making investments in quality control laboratories, fertilisation and technical assistance for farmers. To support this, the Fairtrade standards for coffee require that at least 25 percent of the Fairtrade Premium ($0.05 cents per pound) must be invested into improving coffee quality and productivity

Such investments were key to the success of Fairtrade Golden Cup winner Federación Campesina del Cauca, explains Maricel Vivas, the cooperative’s legal representative.

“The analysis of quality in our laboratory is a fundamental measure in order to constantly improve the quality of our coffees. Technical support is also very important to improve the quality of our members’ coffees,” she says. “We have not yet held our general assembly to decide on how we will invest the Fairtrade Premium this year, but farmers have already expressed that they want to continue investing into technical support, fertilization and crop care.”

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Judges give quality or Q-scores to each coffee sample, out of a possible 100 points.

Fairtrade Golden Cup events: A great incentive to keep working on quality

CLAC, alongside its national platforms, began organizing the first Golden Cup events across Latin American countries nearly two years ago, as a way to encourage Fairtrade certified producers to continue working on quality improvement. Fairtrade producer organizations submit their samples to be judged by a panel of certified Q-graders. The winners are recognized with an award, and featured at cupping sessions organized by Fairtrade at speciality coffee trade shows.

“We were invited by CLAC last year to take part in the competition,” recalls Maricel Vivas. “We saw it as an opportunity to access new markets. It must be said that the specialty coffee markets are difficult to access and to remain there is a constant fight, especially taking into account the effects of climate change. But we receive this award with gratitude. We believe that by working as a team, opportunities always arise.”

Making use of technology to reach buyers worldwide

This year’s Colombian Fairtrade Golden Cup Awards represent the first time that finalists’ coffee samples were auctioned via an online platform. Beyco (“Beyond Coffee”), a global coffee connection and trading platform based on blockchain technology, was developed and owned by Progreso Foundation as part of their goal to support producer organisations in access to markets and finance. While it is not yet adapted for online auctions, Fairtrade and Beyco are partnering to test this functionality. The benefit of using the platform is that buyers and sellers can establish direct connections that can lead to sales of other coffees from the finalist cooperatives outside of the auction.

“We want to go beyond promotion and awareness raising,” says Joao Mattos, coffee manager at CLAC. “What we hope for by organizing these awards and auctions is to bring to new business to the Fairtrade coffee cooperatives that are working so hard to produce the best coffees. Hopefully, this will then translate into long-term business relationships.”

The premium prices earned for these coffees shows how much interest Fairtrade speciality coffees are generating. The Fairtrade Minimum Price for coffee is $1.40 per pound, but specialty coffees can command higher prices. By contrast, the New York C-price for Arabica beans is hovering around $1.06 per pound.

Joseph Tavenier, working in quality assurance at Bridgehead Coffee, was able to participant in the event.

"Having gone through this competition, there's no concerns for me that the quality is there and that's a big takeaway,” says Joe. “If we have to explore and work to discover places that are producing high quality, Fairtrade, and organic coffee, this competition definitely did that for us."

Following the outstanding response to the Colombian Fairtrade Golden Cup Awards, upcoming competitions are already being organized across Latin America, with the next competition scheduled to be held in Honduras in May. Peru and Brazil will also host events later this year.

Meanwhile, Fairtrade Africa is replicating the model, with the first Fairtrade Golden Cup events in African coffee-producing countries planned for this summer.


If you want to find out more about the Fairtrade Golden Cup Awards in Latin America, please contact Joao Mattos at: joao.mattos@clac-comerciojusto.org.

List of coffees auctioned:





Federación Campesina de Cauca – FCC*



Cooperativa Central de Caficultores de Huila - COOCENTRAL



Cooperativa Regional de Cafes Especiales Global Cafes



Federación Campesina de Cauca - FCC*



Cooperativa dos Caficultores de Huila - CADEFIHUILA



Cooperativa de Caficultores de Salgar



Cooperativa de Caficultores de Caicedonia - CAFICAICEDONIA



Cooperativa Departamental de Caficultores Risaralda Ltda


* Federación Campesina de Cauca had two samples selected as finalists in the competition.