[O]n a crisp November morning in New York, coffee producers from nine countries gathered to celebrate the Ernesto Illy International Coffee Award. The award seeks to recognize coffee growers’ commitment to quality and sustainability, emphasizing Illycaffè’s commitment to working hand-in-hand with producers to pursue the best quality of coffee. A symposium took place in the morning, followed by a formal gala at the United Nations that evening.
Illycaffè chairman Andrea Illy spoke at the morning seminar, along with Illycaffè CEO Massimiliano and Pogliani Albert Scalla of INTL FCStone. The three speakers discussed the outlook of coffee through the lenses of changing climate and market volatility, outlining steps for protecting the future of arabica coffee.
Illy said it was the first time by design the company was able to gather so many growers together in one place. “Growers dream to be in direct contact with consumers,” he said, “and consumers dream to know growers because of the narrative and the discovery. So, let’s make it happen.”
Illy described New York as the ideal place for the event to take place—in addition to being a hub of consumer attention, it also is the home of the stock exchange for coffee and the United Nations.
Competing countries were Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, India, and Nicaragua. Prior to the event, three finalists were selected from each country by the Illy Quality Lab, then a representative from each country was chosen by an internal jury. The day of the awards gala, an international independent jury tasted different preparations made by each of the nine country winners to choose the “best of the best” coffee of the 2015-2016 season’s crops.
After the jury tastings, Ethiopia’s Ahmed Legesse was awarded with the Ernesto Illy International Coffee Award. The jury described the coffee as having an intense, yet delicate flavor. Its unique, high-intensity floral and jasmine notes, mixed with a slight hint of citrus and fresh fruit, set it apart from the competitors. An honorable special mention went to Juan Angel Milla of Honduras.