NEW YORK: After rounds of blind tastings at the United Nations by an international independent jury of top culinary and coffee experts, illycaffe, the global leader in high-quality coffee and a pioneer of large-scale, directly-traded coffee, announced that coffee beans grown by Honduras's Jose Abelardo Diaz Enamorado were designated "Best of the Best" in the 2017 Ernesto Illy International Coffee Award.
The top-scoring coffee lot was named from among 27 of the world's best lots from the 2016/2017 harvests in nine countries, at a gala last night attended by representatives of each grower and delegates from each nation. Coffee lovers will have a chance to judge -- and enjoy -- for themselves, when illy makes each of nine finalists beans available for purchase as a single origin next year at select illy Caffe locations.
In 1966, Diaz Enamorado and his wife, Daysi Clemencia Reyes, began planting coffee in the village of El Chimizal, with an initial area of 3.5 acres, in the region of Erandique. Alongside Honduras, coffee lots from Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Guatemala, India, Nicaragua and Rwanda were chosen to compete, following intensive analysis at illy's Quality Lab at its Trieste, Italy headquarters. All nine finalists will comprise the legendary illy blend, known for decades for its unparalleled richness, complexity and consistency.
"It is an honor and a pleasure to recognize Mr. Diaz Enamorado for his achievement, and that of all of our finalists, which is nothing less than producing the highest-quality coffee in the world through sustainable methods,'" said Andrea Illy, chairman of illycaffe.
The Ernesto llly International Coffee Award, named for illy's visionary, second-generation leader, recognizes excellence in raising coffee of the highest quality through sustainable means. The award celebrates his company's hand-in-hand work with farmers to realize its dream of offering the best coffee to the world.
The Award is rooted in a program that illy established nearly three decades ago in Brazil, originally called Premio de Qualidade do Cafe para Espresso, that drove illy's transformation to a company that today purchases nearly 100 percent of its coffee beans directly from producers able to meet its exacting quality standards, at a guaranteed premium over market prices averaging 30 percent. Today, illy stands as one of the world's major purchasers of top-quality Arabica coffee directly from producers, whereby most coffee continues to be purchased on commodity markets, which can guarantee neither consistent quality nor a living wage to the coffee chain's most important stakeholders: its 25 million families of growers.
This year, a panel of culinary and coffee experts from around the world took on the difficult task of choosing this year's "Best of the Best" bean, whose judgments were based on criteria including aromatic richness/complexity, balance/elegance and aroma intensity/strength.
•Mark Pendergrast (Jury Chair): A best-selling American author, Pendergrast is known throughout the coffee community for his books Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How it Transformed Our World, and Beyond Fair Trade: How One Small Coffee Company Helped Transform a Hillside Village in Thailand.
•Caterina Ceraudo: Ceraudo is the chef behind Michelin Star-holder restaurant Dattilo, located on her family's biodynamic farm in Calabria, Italy. She is known as one of Italy's preeminent chefs for her simple yet innovative takes on traditional Calabrian cuisine.
•Pino Cuttaia: Cuttaia is the celebrated chef at the helm of the Licata, Italy-based restaurant La Madia, which he opened with his wife in 2000. Known for his interpretation of Sicilian cuisine, Cuttaia has received two Michelin Stars.
•Kerri Goodman: Founder and Publisher of CoffeeTalk magazine, Goodman has more than 20 years of experience in the coffee industry. Beyond her editorial work, Goodman sits on the board of several non-profit coffee organizations.
•Richard Martin: Martin serves as editorial director of Food Republic, which he launched in 2011 and now reaches millions of food lovers every month. He was a founding editor of the groundbreaking culture magazine Complex.
•Denise Mazzei: Mazzei is an assistant professor of business management at the Culinary Institute of America, and an alum of the school herself. An entrepreneur at heart, Denise owned her own foodservice business for eight years.
•Josimar Melo: A food and wine journalist for leading Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, Melo publishes a widely anticipated annual guide to cuisine in São Paulo, and presides over the Latin America Jury in Brazil for the World's 50 Best Restaurants.
•Fernando Arturo Osorio Rodriguez: Director of Quality at Colombia's Almacafe S.A. - FNC, and an appointee to the Colombian National Coffee Grower's Federation, Rodriguez is deeply expert in coffee's numerous physical and sensorial properties.
•Ansha Yassin Suileman: Ethiopia-based Suileman is the managing director for CO QUA trading plc. She is a coffee expert in every aspect, specializing in coffee quality inspection, among numerous other skills.
illy brought representatives of all 27 finalists to New York City for Monday's proceedings at the United Nations, followed by a gala at the New York Public Library to honor the extraordinary achievements of all growers. In addition to "Best of the Best," a "Coffee Lovers Choice" award, sponsored by illy partner United Airlines, determined by blind consumer tastings, was awarded to Juan Carlos Alvarez from Costa Rica. Katie Lee, renowned chef, cookbook author and co-host of Food Network's "The Kitchen," served as the gala's emcee.
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