The first Ernesto Illy International Coffee Award

The first Ernesto Illy International Coffee Award

Starting February 6, the new collector edition of illy cans dedicated to the award winner countries of the first Ernesto Illy International Coffee Award will be available in a very limited number for the joy of the coffee conoisseurs around the world.

The International Award was thought and launched in 2016, to continue and evolve what was started by my father Ernesto to promote quality & sustainability in Brazil in 1992. The ceremony was held last November in New York City.

The base of the coffee industry pyramid is formed by roughly 25 million families, who cultivate 34 varieties of Arabica coffee in 80 countries. The market is divided among different cultures, industrial visions and production processes, with a small number of multinational companies satisfying the majority of the demand, in general with mass market products. Slightly less than two thirds of the total coffee market fits into the commodity category: the raw materials are processed quickly, the manufacturing volume is large and, thus, the final result is not a high quality product. On the other hand, the farmers who produce coffee for illy come from different cultures and latitudes but they all converge on one point: an obsessive striving for quality as the key to selling their harvests at a higher-than-average price.

For the past twenty-five years, the annual Ernesto Illy Quality Award for Espresso Coffee has been given to the Brazilian coffee farmer who produced that year’s highest quality coffee. After a quarter of a century working side-by-side with Brazilian farmers, and in view of the excellent results that have been achieved, we decided to extend this local recognition to all the growers with whom we work, in the main countries which produce the nine single-origin Arabica beans that make up our blend. Thus, during the award ceremony of the 25th Ernesto Illy Quality Award for Espresso Coffee, I announced the creation of the Ernesto Illy International Coffee Award, which every year will proclaim the best coffee chosen from among the coffees grown in the regions all over the world that make up illy’s unique blend. This is a natural, global evolution of the Quality Award, allowing it to progress from being a local initiative to becoming the first truly international award dedicated to the quality of coffee. 

 This award is illycaffè’s recognition of coffee growers’ commitment to quality and sustainability; it emphasizes the importance of working closely with growers and it also fosters the company’s dream to offer the greatest coffee to the world. 

Among the 2015-16 season’s crops, the illy Quality Lab identified the three best coffee lots from each of the nine coffee producing countries of the unique illy blend. The competing countries in 2016 were Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, India and Nicaragua. An in-house jury selected the coffee lot that represented the best of each individual country. Then, an independent international jury tasted the nine country winner coffees in different preparations, in order to choose the absolute “best of the best” coffee of the season’s crops. The selection of the best lots of the 2016-17 season has already begun, and soon we will be ready to announce the 2017 participating countries.

The first annual Ernesto Illy International Coffee Award ceremony was held on November 1, 2016 in a truly meaningful location: the Delegates Dining Room of the United Nations. The jury assigned the first Ernesto Illy International Coffee Award to Ahmed Legesse from Ethiopia. An honorable special mention went to Honduras, which took second place; it obtained an equal Global Quality Score but was surpassed by the Ethiopian coffee in the judging category “Aroma Intensity of Espresso.”  

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