Taste of the Harvest – say, the African alternative to the Cup of Excellence competition, is in full swing. Mid-January, the selections for the Uganda and DR Congo programs took place in Kampala, Uganda, and we got invited to join the jury panel to help draw up the tastiest selection. Taste of the Harvest is organised by AFCA (African Fine Coffee Association) in its ten member countries. This year, competitions were held only in Malawi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Congo, Uganda and Tanzania. Other member countries are Burundi, Rwanda, Madagascar, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Through the regional cupping events, AFCA aims to increase national and international awareness of each country’s coffee potential.
All producers can submit coffees for the national cupping competitions. The only criterion is that they have at least 8 bags of green coffee available of this quality. All submitted coffees are scored and ranked by a panel of Q- and R-graders; Taste of the Harvest has both an Arabica and a Robusta leg, depending on the country. Coffees are evaluated and graded keeping the typical country profiles in mind. The top five coffees are presented at the annual AFCA conference, now taking place in Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania until the 5th of February. At the AFCA Conference, each country is promoted to international buyers and roasters through the coffees that made their way to the top rank of the Taste of the Harvest program. The two coffees with the highest score are put in the spotlight during cuppings at the conference’s cupping pavilion. Also on a national level, the coffees are promoted to raise awareness of the importance and possibilities of coffee among producers and consumers, with media exposure for the producers and the Taste of the Harvest competition. TOH lots that score above 80 and pass the green grading and roast tests receive a Q grade certificate with detailed information on a sample’s flavor profile yo help producers more effectively market their coffees.
Both the Ugandese and Congolese competitions took place at the Uganda Coffee Development Authority offices (UCDA) in Kampala. In total, around 60 samples were cupped in the Ugandese selection. The number of samples submitted for the Congolese competition was a bit lower. We joined the national cupping team on the 12th of January, after the preselection round, to cup the Ugandese and Congolese coffees scoring above 80. Finally, 10 coffees scored above 80 in the Uganda finals. Two beautiful Drugar (Dried/natural Uganda Arabica) from the Sipi Falls area of Mount Elgon in Eastern Uganda markedly headed the pack with elegantly bright and sugary fruit profiles. In Congo, 8 lots made it to the final selection. Equally vibrant fruity profiles to be found in the higher lots here. A coffee from Kawa Kabuya in the Bulambo/Isale region of Congo came out best of all submitted samples.
We tried to get our hands on one of the top Uganda lots, but obviously our eyes weren’t the only ones spying on the competitions! Participating in the competition was hugely insightful, we’ll definitely go looking for those beautiful fruity highland coffees again next year!