Some two decades ago, Brazil’s reputation in coffee had been high volume, fair quality.  illy’s pioneering work with Brazil’s farmers would change that, helping create wide recognition of, and a market for, stellar, high-quality Arabica.

A major pillar in Brazil’s quality revolution was the Ernesto Illy Prize for Quality Espresso, which since its introduction in 1991 has rewarded the most deserving Arabica farmers with cash. . Over  10,000 coffee farmers have participated in the competition, earning more than 4,5 million Reais in prize money.  Most farmers have reinvested their winnings back into their farms, proving the potency of a sustainability model with clear objectives.

The award has been instrumental in developing entire high-quality coffee growing regions within the country, such as the areas around Pirajuí (in the State of Sao Paulo), the hinterlands of the Cerrado, and  the mountainous regions of the State of Minas Gerais.


1998 heralded the start of illy’s partnership with Share Our Strength (SOS), a global nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting hunger. illy has contributed  more than $1.5 million (USD) over a decade.

illy chose to focus its efforts for SOS on drought-stricken Ethiopia, coffee’s ancestral home.  An initiative called Cup of Kindness, launched by illy in 2004, was instrumental in building and fundingthe School of Moyale Woreda, providing a sorely needed environment for learning. 

illy has also contributed to the construction of a primary and secondary school in  Sisota (in the region of Sidamo), an area adjacent to major coffee washing stations, improving education and helping children under 14 remain in school.