Cooperativa Cocabel in Honduras

At Trieste, on the 3 December 2020 – illycaffè announced the winner of the Ernesto Illy International Coffee Award 2020, which the company bestows every year on the best producer of sustainable coffee.

The winner

The winner was Cooperativa Cocabel in Honduras, which won in both categories: “Best of the Best” and “Coffee Lover’s Choice”, after a series of blind tastings by two independent juries, one comprising experts and the other consumers.

Cocabel is a cooperative

Cocabel is a cooperative with about a hundred or so partners, located in the municipality of Belen in the department of Lempira, in south-western Honduras. The partners deliver coffee cherries to the cooperative, which then removes the pulps, rinses them, and dries them out in the sun on the patio. Cocabel works closely with BICAFE, a company that runs a coffee warehouse and dry mill near Santa Rosa de Copan and selects high-quality batches of coffee.

The coffee winner

The 2020 Ernesto Illy International Coffee Award winner is a plentiful-bodied creamy coffee with an elegant balance and highly favored of chocolate and caramel notes, combined of refreshing notes of citrus, saturated with nutty and delicate whispers of dried and fresh fruits and a lingering aftertaste of light honey and vanilla nuances. It is elegantly balanced, an extremely complex coffee with a very intensity flavor, magnificently representing the taste characteristics of its origin. It obtained twice best of the best’ score of the three categories, specifically for “Elegance” and “Aromatic Richness”, and the second-best score for “Aromatic intensity”.

Selecting the best batches of coffee

Every year, illycaffè’s quality lab selects the best batches of coffee on the basis of quality and sustainability parameters. The countries that stood out the most during the 2019/2020 harvest were Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Nicaragua, and Rwanda. The best three producers from each country made it to the final round of the Ernesto Illy International Coffee Award 2020, where each national winner became one of the nine finalists in the international competition.

The Independent panel

An independent panel of international experts, chefs, and food critics conducted a blind tasting of the nine finalists, sampling various preparations – espresso, moka, drip, and filter coffee – and picked a winner on the basis of the richness and complexity of the bouquet, the elegance and balance of flavours, and the intensity of the aroma.

This time the panel of experts and the consumers agreed with the former qualitative analysis showing it matched consumers’ taste. This is a well-deserved recognition of the extraordinary work carried out day by day with great dedication by men and women from the Cocabel cooperative– said illycaffè’s Chairman Andrea Illy –  The Cocabel cooperative managed to draw together small coffee growers united by the awareness that sustainable quality beings with the plant. With the Ernesto Illy International Coffee Award we aim to emphasize the importance of the care that growers put into their plantation, whether large or small, because it is the starting point for a virtuous circle that ends with the cup of coffee being savoured by its final consumer”.   

The ceremony

The Ernesto Illy International Coffee Award ceremony, now at its fifth edition and named after the son of illycaffè’s founder, is a way to celebrate and reward illy’s best growers for the attention to sustainable quality they bring to their work every day, and to renew the company’s commitment to improving the lives of producers and bring to life the dream of offering the best coffee to the world.

The event, which was held remotely this year, was hosted by Arizona Muse, a fashion model famous for her environmental commitment and, more generally, for her activism in the field of sustainability. Starting on December 4th the ceremony can be viewed on the website

International panel

The panel that selected the winner of the award included:

Luz Stella Artajo Medina

An expert Q Grader taster and Q Processing instructor, she served for several years as the auditor for the Cup of Excellence in Colombia. She worked with the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) as Regional Coordinator for South America, and she is currently working on numerous projects worldwide as a coffee consultant. She is a graduate of illycaffè’s Master of Economics & Science of Coffee.

Nereo Ballestriero

A two-time winner of the Best Café in Italy award (2011 – 2014) thanks to his ability to innovate and combine a European outlook with local traditions, focusing on local products while remaining open to international ideas and flavours, and ensuring a high-quality offer from early morning to late at night.

Rupert Blease

Together with his wife Carrie, chef and co-owner of Lord Stanley, the widely praised San Francisco restaurant that has boasted a Michelin star for many years now and was ranked #3 Best New Restaurant in America by Bon Appétit in 2016.

Giada De Laurentiis

Giada De Laurentiis is an Emmy Award winner and a leading television personality, hosting The Food Network’s Everyday Italian, Giada at Home, Giada In Italy,  Giada’s Holiday Handbook, Giada Entertains, Giada On The Beach, and serving as a judge on Food Network Star.  She is a frequent guest on the NBC Today Show, and a successful restaurateur with her restaurants GIADA, Pronto di Giada, and GDL Italiano. She is the author of nine New York Times best-selling cookbooks, including her latest, Giada’s Italy. She has launched, a lifestyle and e-commerce platform featuring content reflecting the Italian lifestyle, from recipes and typical Italian products to trips.

Erica Firpo

A lifestyle, food, and travel journalist, she has written for the Washington Post, Fathom, Conde Nast Traveler, Viaggi e tempo libero, and The Guardian. She is an editor at ISSIMO.

Maritza Elizabeth Hernandez

She is an experienced Q Grader taster who works for the Honduran Institute of Coffee. She is an expert in the analytical evaluation of coffee with over ten years’ experience in coffee tasting.

Michael Kempf

Chef at the two-Michelin Star Facil Restaurant in Berlin’s Mandala Hotel, he also cooks for the TV show ARD Buffet. He earned his first Michelin star at the age of 26. He was named “Rising star of the year” by Gault-Millau in 2008, and together with his team earned his second Michelin star in 2013. He obtained a score of 19 points from Gault-Millau in 2018 and 2019.

Antonia Klugmann

Since 2015 her restaurant L’Argine a Vencò has had a Michelin star. Recognized as Italy’s best female chef by the country’s leading guides for several years now, in 2020 she became the first woman ever to be named Best Chef of the Year by the Identità Golose guide. She was one of the judges on the 7th season of Masterchef Italy.

Emmanuel Rubin

Co-founder of Le Fooding®, and co-director Achab Food&Beverage Ideas. Author of numerous books and guides on gastronomy. Food and wine critic for Le Figaro.