On 20 April 2023, the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) unveiled its new Coffee Value Assessment. The idea behind the updated cupping form and protocol is to collect a broader range of information about a specific coffee (including physical and extrinsic data), and thereby more accurately assess its quality.
At this time, the Coffee Value Assessment is yet to come into effect. However, on 18 May 2023, the SCA released its updated rules and regulations for the 2023 World Latte Art, World Coffee in Good Spirits, and World Coffee Roasting Championships. These three competitions will take place in Taipei, Taiwan from 17 to 20 November 2023.
The biggest update is for the World Coffee Roasting Championship. The competition will now incorporate aspects of the Coffee Value Assessment in both competitors’ routines and the judging process.
So how could this affect the future of the competition? Read on to find out more.
Looking at the new rule changes
The SCA has updated several World Coffee Roasting Championship rules for the 2023 event. The regulations which now incorporate the new Coffee Value Assessment, however, are the most significant changes.
In an announcement, the SCA stated: “Changes to the WCRC rules are centred on the evaluation portion of the competition, to better balance the weight of the competitor’s roasting skills, and of the results produced through these in the competition.
“The changes include the introduction of new evaluation scales more clearly aligned with the SCA’s Coffee Value Assessment, informed by research and sensory science best practice,” the organisation added.
The updated rules and regulations largely affect the WCRC cupping evaluation process. This includes the production roast evaluation score sheet and protocol.
Let’s take a look at the specific updated rules and regulations:
Roast plan 2.2.6 & 6.5
At previous World Coffee Roasting Championships, according to rules 2.2.6 and 6.5, each competitor had to submit a roast plan for each production roast. This plan clearly describes several factors:
- Colour reading of their roasted coffee
- A description of what the taste and flavour results of the production roast will be. This includes the intensity of acidity and body
WCRC competitors were also recommended to use the SCA’s Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel as a reference tool.
Following the rule change, competitors at this year’s event in Taipei will now have to submit an updated roast plan. This will include a descriptive assessment sensory results form which is more clearly aligned with the Coffee Value Assessment.
Competitors need to fill out the descriptive assessment sensory results for each sensory attribute category that the judges assess and evaluate:
- Fragrance and aroma
In order to capture more data about the specific coffee, this form includes intensity ratings and “check all that apply” (CATA) descriptors. The SCA says these correspond to the inner circles of the Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel.
To add to this, WCRC competitors can also add extra CATA descriptors which aren’t listed on the form.
Roast plan score sheet evaluation 8.0
Prior to the recent WCRC rule changes, the evaluation scale for the Roast Plan score sheet ranged from 0 to 6. A score of 0 is “unacceptable”, while 6 is “extraordinary”.
At this year’s competition, the evaluation scale will now only include four categories:
- None to evaluate or out of acceptable range – 0
- Not very accurate (acceptable/average) – 1
- Somewhat accurate (good/very good) – 2
- Very accurate (excellent/extraordinary) – 3
The SCA says this rule change is in line with sensory analysis research conducted as part of the organisation’s three-year project to develop its cupping and grading protocol.
Production roast cupping score sheet 9.3
When it comes to evaluating competitors’ production roasts, WCRC judges previously used a production evaluation score sheet. This was based on a total score out of 100 points. Judges also used a production cupping evaluation scale, which ranged from 6.00 to 10.00.
The 2023 WCRC 9.3 rule change means that the production cupping evaluation score sheet now includes two separate scores: affective coffee evaluation and accuracy of coffee descriptors, as well as any roast defects. Again, this update is a result of sensory analysis research conducted as part of the SCA’s Coffee Value Assessment study.
Coffee evaluation 9.3.1
Lastly, to score the quality of competitors’ production roasts, WCRC judges will now use a nine-point scale, which ranges from 0 (“none to evaluate”) and 9 (“extraordinary/extremely high”). Scores between 0 and 3, however, will require approval from the head judge.
The SCA says this nine-point scale was developed as part of its Coffee Value Assessment.
So what could this mean for future World Coffee Roasting Championships?
There’s plenty to unpack with these updated rules and regulations. Arguably the biggest factor to consider is that both competitors and judges will now need to account for a wider range of information when describing and evaluating coffee.
“The SCA is delighted to announce these rules updates, and see three competitions – the World Barista Championship, World Brewers Cup, and World Coffee Roasting Championship – reflect the SCA Coffee Value Assessment,” SCA CEO Yannis Apostolopoulos said in a press release.
“Competitions touch many people in the industry and these rules will be implemented by over 60 licensed competition bodies around the world, so it is important that they are connected to the Coffee Value Assessment,” he added. “We are fully committed to ensuring the assessment is accessible so that we can make specialty coffee a thriving, equitable, and sustainable activity for all.”
A better chance to receive higher scores?
With new intensity ratings and CATA descriptors added to the 2023 WCRC roast plan – as well as being able to include extra sensory descriptors on the form – competitors should be able to more accurately describe their coffee.
In theory, this could increase their chances of receiving a higher score – as long as their production roast is high quality and matches the judges’ experience.
Similarly, with the WCRC production roast cupping score sheet now including two separate scores for affective coffee evaluation and accuracy of coffee descriptors, the judges’ assessment may be more in line with competitors’ descriptions of their coffee.
According to the SCA, competition bodies have the option to implement the updated rules either this year or in the 2024 season. However, the new Coffee Value Assessment regulations will be used at the 2023 world final in Taiwan, so we’re sure to see how they affect the competition then.
“We recognise that these are large changes for the competitions community, and we will be hosting a number of webinars to support and answer questions,” the SCA said in a press release.
Whether these changes will add value to the World Coffee Roasting Championship remains to be seen. But by broadening the range of information collected and evaluated as part of the competition, there will surely be some benefits for competitors.
Enjoyed this? Then read our article on why Busan will host the 2024 World Coffee Championships.
Photo credits: Michelle Illuzzi, Specialty Coffee Association
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