so... obviously my previous post was a bit cryptic and incomplete.
in my defense, so was my thought process.
through thought and some fantastic exchanges with Duane (the owner of Stumptown) i've clarified things in my own head.
so, let's see...
what do i mean between there being "a link" between Cup of Excellence and Transfair?
link was a bad word. i mean that there is something really critical that is missing in Transfair and is present in the CoE. Cup of Excellence reward producers for quality with recognition. in addition, through the auction process, they reward producers financially. this ties quality to revenues. Transfair does not tie increased pay to quality but rather divorces it entirely.
to be blunt, Transfair are a bunch of paper pushers. they have rules and structures and numbers -- all objective, note of them subjective. this is the way life is with bureaucratic organizations - they exist on an objective basis. it's reality. they're doing great things - there is not doubt about it - and their hearts are in the right place. but they're missing the boat on quality.
at a certain level, it would be great if an organization like Transfair could learn from CoE -- if they could start to understand, explain and push the link between quality and price to both producers and to consumers...
CoE is rewarding the producers of quality with recognition and with increased income. but CoE is limited in scope and leverage and brand. CoE is (honestly) entirely dependent upon a handful of buyers/judges like Duane and Andrew. there are a very small number of people who are pushing for quality at a bean through consumption level -- and who are (as a result) creating a link between quality and income for the farmers. these folks are making a difference and are setting an example -- but there is no Organization.
you can make the argument that, right now, Transfair has the money, they have the resources and they have the leverage. they may well be the best positioned to make a difference on a larger scale.
but... can one create an organization with that sort of structure that is subjective in basis? can you somehow codify quality of taste? to be honest - i can't see it. i don't know if it's possible for an organization like Transfair to work the way CoE does and to focus on quality.
i really do believe that there is some way to increase awareness of quality at the consumer level and to tie increased income to quality at the producer level on a larger and replicatable scale. i feel like i'm close to seeing it - but it's all still a bit fuzzy.