Senait Fisseha l Palladium - Jan 24 2023
The Million Dollar Cup of Coffee

Each year, coffee growers in Ethiopia produce more than 850 million pounds of coffee. About half is exported around the world, while the other half is sold domestically. Regardless of where the coffee is being consumed, only one coffee can win the Cup of Excellence.

In September, Ethiopia’s top coffee competition, the 2022 Cup of Excellence, concluded in Addis Ababa with a record breaking US$1.3 million auction for the country’s best coffee. This third annual competition was organised by the Ethiopian Coffee and Tea Authority, in partnership with Alliance for Coffee Excellence, the Ethiopian Private Coffee Associations, and USAID’s CATALYZE Market Systems for Growth (MS4G) activity in Ethiopia, implemented by Palladium. The two-day event included a coffee exhibition, a panel discussion, cupping, and tasting of the various winning coffees as well as the award and recognition ceremony.

During his remarks, Sean Jones, USAID Ethiopia Mission Director, reiterated the agency’s commitment to supporting smallholder coffee farmers and their communities through various projects and initiatives, such as Cup of Excellence. This competition has aided in the transformation of the specialty coffee sector in Ethiopia by providing market access for smallholder farmers and vastly improving their livelihoods. The latest estimates show that though 125 million people worldwide depend on coffee for their livelihoods, many of them are unable to earn a reliable living from it, making fair trade organisations or events like the Cup of Excellence critical in increasing livelihoods of smallholder coffee farmers.

“By linking small-scale farmers to coffee buyers across the globe, we're putting more money into Ethiopia's coffee-growing communities and a cup of the world's absolute best in the hands of countless coffee lovers."

This year’s top prize went to Legesse Botasa Dikale, whose Sidama sundried natural coffee scored 90.69 points and sold at a staggering US$400.50 per pound to LNK Coffee Trading DMCC from China and US$400 per pound to SAZA Coffee. This is the highest price ever recorded for Ethiopian coffee and set a new Cup of Excellence record. “I feel like I hit a jackpot!” exclaimed Dikale at the ceremony.

“This will completely change my and my family's life for the better. I am extremely happy and very thankful; I never could have imagined my coffee would have sold with this kind of price. I can expand my farm and coffee business now.”

This year, 170 buyers from across 23 countries registered and received samples from the 40 different smallholder coffee farmers to participate in the auction. The competitive auction lasted more than 11 hours and the top three coffees received 398 bids.

Buyers were equally excited to be part of the auction. “This coffee impressed us a lot with rich floral and fruity flavours and acidity during sample cupping,” said Xiaoxiao Kang, General Manager of LNK Coffee Trading, and buyer of the winning coffee. “We double checked with pour-over methods to convince us it’s one of the best natural Ethiopia coffees we experienced in this crop year which perfectly present the ‘Terroir-Flavors’ of Sidama, Ethiopia.”

He added that the company has a plan to host coffee tasting events in Beijing, Shanghai, Dubai, Addis Ababa, and possibly more cities around the world to share this coffee with as many of their customers as possible.

USAID CATALYZE MS4G, is helping to develop the coffee sector through its broader effort to improve the food security and water and sanitation sectors through increased access to finance. The team supports the Ethiopian specialty coffee producers and the surrounding ecosystem by providing business growth support to the top 40 farmers and agribusinesses and 110 others who did not make it into the competition finals this year.

The record-breaking result of this year’s competition has raised expectations and motivated hundreds of farmers to produce better quality coffee and eventually to compete at the global level.

USAID CATALYZE MS4G is implemented by Palladium and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). For more, read 'Blockchain's Potential as a Supply Chain Tool in Expanding Markets in Sri Lanka' or contact