COE Rules & Protocols


Rigorous rules and protocols are followed closely at each and every Cup of Excellence competition. A brief summary is given below.

*These rules and protocols have been altered due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. We are continuing with our auctions using new, safer formats. You can learn more here.


The Cup of Excellence competition is open to all farmers throughout the country – large or small, estate or cooperative, private or public coffee washing stations. Each farmer may enter 1 sample free of charge.


A professional auditing company ensures fairness and neutrality at every stage. All coffees are cupped ‘blind’ (the identity of the farmer, farm, varietal, and location are not known to the cuppers).


An Organising Committee made up of stakeholders from all parts of the country’s coffee sector is responsible for the in-country management of the competition. Each competition is guided by a professional head judge and is overseen by ACE and the in-country management team.

Criteria for Selection

All coffees must score 86+ points from a possible 100 to advance to the next phase of the competition. This 86+ score will be required to move from pre-selection to the national week and the national week to the international week. The top 30 coffees advance to the Cup of Excellence auction, if the coffee scores an 87+. Samples with major defects are eliminated immediately.

The rigorous sample preparation protocols ensure that cuppers score only the quality in the cup – the influence of external variables such as roast, grind, dose, temperature and water quality are minimized.


Each Cup of Excellence competition consists of a total of 6 rounds of cupping. Two skilled and highly experienced juries score the samples during the competition.

The National Jury is made up of experienced professional cuppers from the country of origin. This jury cups all coffees entered at Pre-Selection and all those, which then advance to the National Jury week
The International Jury members are importer, buyers and other skilled coffee cuppers primarily from the consuming countries. There are also 2 national juries who join the International Jury to cup the final 3 rounds of the competition and to select those coffees, which will be awarded Cup of Excellence and progress to the online auction. 

Learn more about the competition process.


Round 1

  • Every sample entered into the competition is cupped once by the National Jury.
  • All samples that score 86 or over advance to the next stage (maximum 150 samples).
  • Farmers must now move the entire lot to a bonded warehouse under the control of an independent auditing company. New samples are then drawn which will be used for the subsequent rounds.

National Jury

Round 2

  • The National Jury cups those samples that advanced from Pre-Selection. All those that again score 86 or over advance to the next round (maximum 90 samples).

Round 3

  • These samples are cupped again and all those that again score at least 86 points remain in the competition (up to a maximum of 40 samples).

International Jury

Round 4

  • The following week, the International jurors/cuppers assemble to cup all those samples passed forward from the National Jury week.

Round 5

  • Up to a maximum of 30 samples that have scored over 87 points are then cupped in a second round to select those that will finally be awarded Cup of Excellence and progress to the online auction. Descriptions are taken for each sample.

Round 6

  • On the final day of the International Jury, the top ten highest scoring samples are cupped one final time to give them special attention, to determine the final score and ranking.

Awards Ceremony

Winning Farmers are announced at a large awards ceremony. Certificates are awarded to all winning farmers and special recognition is given to those samples that score over 90 points and which are given a Presidential Award.

Milling & Samples

The winning lots are milled, sorted and vacuum packed immediately after the International Jury week. The exact weight of each lot is recorded. Samples of all the winning lots are then sent to buyers around the world. Photographs and background information are gathered to support the traceability on each lot.

Online Auction

About 6 weeks after the International Jury week, the winning lots are sold at an online internet auction on the ACE website. The top three coffees will be split into two lots (a & b) if they score 90 and above. Buyers must register to take part in the online auction.

Shipment & Payment

All lots sold at the Cup of Excellence auction are shipped by sea or air to the winning bidders. Payment upon receipt of shipping documents.


As soon as the buyers have made payment, the farmers can be paid. All of the revenues from the auction remain in the country.  Farmers receive the majority of the auction proceeds. In Rwanda and Burundi the role of the washing stations are also recognised.

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