Cup Of Excellence

The overwhelming majority of coffee we roast at Clear Lake Coffee Roasters comes with the distinguished mark of the Cup Of Excellence (COE) organization. This competition and certification is the, 'gold standard,' when it comes to the highest quality coffee produced on earth, bar none. 

For 20 years, the Cup of Excellence (COE) competition has pioneered integrity and transparency in the coffee industry. The level of scrutiny that COE coffees undergo is unmatched anywhere in the industry. This means that the quality of COE coffees is also unmatched. We give farmers the tools they need to improve the economic model of their farms with recognition and financial reward for their hard work and effort.

Since 1999 Cup of Excellence has been an innovative, educational and life changing program for coffee farmers.

Utilizing a stringent competition and selection process the Cup of Excellence has fundamentally changed the entire high quality coffee industry and in fact has created and supported advances in farming and premiums to farmers that would have been impossible without it.

In its infancy the transparency to the farm required by the program ensured that winning farmers directly received the premiums they so honestly deserved and that had been held most often by middlemen. But as the program expanded both buyers and farmers globally understood the sustainability value of transparency. Farmer identification is now a hallmark of the specialty coffee industry in countries with and without a Cup of Excellence program but it is due to the original structure of the competition that this has occurred. Where there is no Cup of Excellence program there is less motivation for transparency.  Cup of Excellence continues to push recognition to farmers of every size and gender in countries where it operates. These individual farmers then can enjoy building direct and long-term relationships with those buyers that appreciate the coffees they produce. 

Smallholder farmers gain the most from Cup of Excellence since historically they had the least education in recognizing their own quality and much less power in demanding fair value. Most coffees were blended- higher qualities were mixed with other lower quality coffees in order to push to a medium quality.  While there was often no malicious intent since blending was the standard it benefitted the larger commercial exporters and importers.

As small micro lots stand on their own uniqueness many coffees no one knows about are discovered- much to the surprise of jurors and buyers who often have  pre-conceived flavor profiles for coffees grown in a country. This surprise gives rise to the marketplace searching out quality for increased premiums. It also supports the rise of appellation development when coffees from the same region continue to win. As efforts to recognize these regional flavor profiles and their value succeed entire communities prosper. Even after 20+ years small farmers enter and win for the first time, flavor profiles continue to amaze, small unique regions are mapped and communities not known for specialty coffee thrive.

Farmers are generally not cuppers and rely on others to let them know the quality and value of their coffee. The competition process pushes this quality analysis to a level that is stringent, neutral, blind and without any commercial bias.   Since the competition process is free and open to all farmers it has given thousands of farmers the tools needed to improve their coffees, experiment with varieties and processing, build economic relationships with the marketplace and financially motivate farmers and their families to stay on the farm- in fact young educated people are returning to the farm with degrees in agronomy, marketing, and sensory analysis. For a sustainable coffee industry, especially one fraught with climate change and economic hardship it is critical that there is a financial motivation for innovation to remain on the farm.

The educational value of the competition goes well beyond the coffee score as it builds technical knowledge and skill that remains in-country for cuppers, roasters, event planners and organizers and builds a shared international vocabulary to describe quality that remains with the thousands of volunteer cuppers making up the national and international juries.

The Cup of Excellence organization has developed a unique set of training programs to give cuppers of all levels across all marketplaces a greater ability to understand and discuss quality. However, many of these programs will target the under-served youth and women in coffee communities giving them skills for professional advancement. Farmers are a priority as an educational program to help small farmers increase their chances of winning and of producing higher quality coffee is being rolled out.

Winning Cup Of Excellence
Changes Farmer’s Lives Forever



The COE Competition Process

  • Educates farmers on the value of their coffee and helps build cutting edge skills.
  • Recognizes and rewards individual farmers and brings them out of the shadows 
  • Supports quality development and processing experimentation
  • Generates an economic windfall from the COE auction
  • Causes increase in demand for other coffee produced on a winning farm
  • Reduces blending of top quality coffees
  • Creates motivation for young generation to bring advanced knowledge back to the farm
  • Builds awareness and recognition allowing for long term business relationships  
  • Improves quality and builds awareness for entire micro-region
  • Discovers new regional flavor profiles and supports appellation development
  • Teaches farmers about marketplace quality requirements 
  • Identifies and helps solve quality problems
  • Determines value of experimental processing and varieties
  • Increases governmental support of coffee farmers


Producers Reap Huge
Financial Reward For Their Winning Coffees

  • Direct payment from Auction is an economic windfall and leads to greater farm improvements in quality and development. Over the past 20 years, the COE auctions have garnered over $60 million in revenues to thousands of coffee farmers
  • Recognition from winning any place in the competition changes a farmer’s life forever and positively affects the entire micro region
  • Buyers visit winners and their neighbors to develop long-term business relationships for greater volume of premium coffee
  • Required Transparency to individual farmers and Access to the competition levels the economic playing field and allows all farmers regardless of size to benefit

Education Through Experience

  • Our courses give students the opportunity to taste coffees from all over the world ranging in score from below specialty to Cup of Excellence winning lots.
  • Real life, practical experience learning how to score coffees using the CoE cupping form.
  • The only course where students can taste and score CoE winning coffees.
  • Unique calibration exercises designed to build confidence and deepened understanding on how to taste and evaluate quality coffee
  • Lively group conversation that will hone your ability to discuss and describe what you taste


Highest Quality Standard

  • Learn from CoE Head judges, ACE Staff and other leading voices in the specialty coffee industry.
  • Gain practical knowledge on cupping and lab set up that has been derived from 20 years of CoE competitions.
  • Experience and learn about the life changing impact of the Cup of Excellence program
  • In-depth explanation on how to use a CoE score sheet
  • The only official Cup of Excellence Education is taught by Cup of Excellence.
Always look for the COE winners produced designation when purchasing craft coffee. At Clear Lake Coffee Roasters we proudly roast and serve COE winners produced coffee, so you can be confident that you are getting the highest quality coffee on earth. We are the definitive source for ultra-premium, artisanal gourmet craft COE winner coffee. Click. Buy. Smile. 

At Clear Lake Coffee Roasters, our coffee does not sit on the shelf for months, or longer, like it would at most retail or wholesale coffee distributors. Instead, with our 'just in time logistics,' we import our green coffee direct from the farmer and it will never spend longer than 10 days in our warehouse. In fact the vast majority of our green coffee spends less than 72 hours in our system before it gets roasted on the very same day your order is shipped. This is how we achieve a coffee which is 12x fresher than coffee found at the grocery store, or for that matter, at most local coffee shops. 

We want you to feel confident and secure that you are buying the absolute highest quality, freshest coffee on the market. We are so sure that you will love our products we have developed the '100% Fresh Guarantee', we offer a 30 day 100% Money Back Guarantee! If you are not completely satisfied, simply let us know via the Contact Us link within 30 days of purchase, then ship us the unused portion of the products, once we receive it, we will refund your money (minus the shipping cost.) If package was shipped via free shipping 20% handling fee is applied.