So, i'm out scouting around for a good coffee to pick up these days and it seems the 90+ barrier has been smashed through with reckless abandon. What used to be regarded as the quintessential cup of magical elixir is now the baseline for coffee evalution. I have occasion to see a broad spectrum of coffees from around the world in our lab and 90+ just doesn't come along. Even at international cupping competitions the rampant desire to score above 90 spreads like syphillis at a Roman orgy. Maybe roasters aren't putting their sub-90 coffees up for sale, or at least not calling attention to them. This is not a desire to see quality standards lowered, it's incredulity at the frequency these coffees seem to come to light. I'd say, even 2 years ago, an 88 or 89 coffee was to be coveted. Have coffees really improved that much since then?

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I have still yet to see a 99 or 100. Are there such coffees? If there is no 100, then how can any coffee be judged? 97 seems to be the highest rated I have found. Guess that makes 97 the highest rating. I do agree with Brian though. Are coffees being rated today better or are the raters going soft? I have tasted some exceptional coffees, that were rated quite poorly(70-80). Just goes to show that ratings mean nothing. Individual taste is what is important.
I agree, the primary reviewing venue is scoring quite a few more coffees 90+ than they used to, but what is more striking is the number of 94-97 scores as of late. Up until 2004 a 94 was rare and a mere handful of 95's had been given. Then there was, what seemed to me to be a 3 point upswell.

In the international competitions I am not seeing an syphlittic infestation of 90+ scores. There were 32- 90+ CoE coffee last year out of 186 coffees that scored 84+, which means that 83% scored between 84-89. Of the 17% higher than 90, only five scored higher than 91.00 with nothing higher than 94. (That coffee really deserved a 94)

Since the international competitions begin with a large pool of coffees for the national jury and are whittled down to the top 40 for the international jury then further cropped to about 25-30 that make it to auction, it stands to reason that 10% of the samples sent to the international jury would be 90+ coffes.

At present, who is dicatating the scoring that roasters are touting ? I see that there are two entities that are more well known to roasters and consumers: International juries, which by their nature are going to represent a sound statistical basis for the overall score, and an outfit that has one or two cuppers giving a review each month. The latter has a keen interest in generating advertising dollars, and an 89 just isn't sexy.
Ok. While this might have been a half-assed attempt at baiting a response, i do now have some evidence to back up my position. Insert here the latest review from CoffeeReview
http://www.coffeereview.com/review.cfm?ID=1718

Eight O'Clock Coffee 100% Colombian Whole Bean
Montvale, New Jersey Reviewed: October 2008
Overall Rating: 90 points

Aroma: 8
Acidity: 8
Body: 8
Flavor: 8
Aftertaste: 7
Roast (Agtron): Medium (53/64)

Blind Assessment: A classic morning cup. Delicate but lush, crisp yet voluptuous, with cherryish fruit and hints of chocolate and tart orange carrying from aroma through finish. Balanced and well-integrated acidity, medium weight but silky mouthfeel, clean, lingering finish with a slight walnut-like astringency in the long.

90 points for this coffee, lagging just 1 point behind a Rwanda and a 100% bourbon El Sal. If off-the-shelf, non-specialty grocery brands can easily compete with the efforts of dedicated producers, importers and roasters...dark days indeed.

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