Conference at the Coffee Capital
By Amelia C. Levy
Coffee was buzzing through Seattle a little more than usual, with the SCAA’s recent gathering celebrating specialty’s coffee worldwide appreciation and acceptance.
The first Starbucks
ever opened is here and still running. The water in its Sound is actually caffeinated, and its drizzly streets are dotted with moist inhabitants clutching to-go coffee cups for their dear life. Could there be a more fitting place in the U.S. to hold a conference about coffee than in Seattle, Washington? So it made perfect sense that this year, the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) held the largest coffee show ever in America’s coffee capital from April 15-18 at the Washington State Convention & Trade Center. For four days, all things related to coffee and tea was constantly on the buzzing minds of the more than 10,000 attendees from 40 countries, who came to learn, do business - and drink some great coffee - in this potent venue. The show also marked the final days of the presidency of Christian Wolthers, Blaser & Wolthers Specialty Trading Company - and the beginning of the new term of presidency for this year’s SCAA conference chair, Rick Peyser, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.
A Specialty Coffee Education
|The 2005 World Barista Championship also took place, in conjunction with the SCAA's 17th Annual Conference & Exhibition in Seattle. Almost 40 international Baristas competed for the top spot. The championship title was handed over to master barista Troels Overdal Poulsen of Café Europa in Denmark.
Over 700 exhibitors showed off their tea and coffee-related products and services to a constant stream of curious and serious attendees. Meanwhile, more than 100 workshops and educational sessions were packed with those hungry for more knowledge about their own field, as well as with relative beginners hoping to make their way in the coffee industry. On the first day of the conference, attendees could use the Friday Flex-Pass to attend classes from any of the unique tracks for that day -- Advanced Marketing, Asia, Coffee Photography, International Collaboration, Q-track, Sustainability, Women, and the well-established track, Amigos del Café, which is conducted entirely in Spanish. They could also commit and choose a full-day seminar from the following: “Getting Things Done: Mastering Workflow”, “Coffcom: A Coffee Communications Summit”, and “Café Start-up: Strategies for Success”, “Roaster Accreditation Program: Green Coffee Grading’. For the rest of the conference, visitors attended a variety of classes within Business/Marketing, International Culture, Retail, Roasting, Sustainability , Technical or Amigos Del Café tracks, all taught by industry leaders and experts. Highlights included “Confessions of a Champion Barista”, “Emerging Coffee Origins”, and “Certification from Farm to Cup”. Three full days of skill-building workshops, including roasting training that attracts those who want to learn hands on. C-members, the consumer member group that is growing each year and eager to learn more about their favorite beverages, attended the Connoisseur Program on Sunday, which concluded with a reception and a guided tour of the show floor on Monday.
Daily tours were conducted so that attendees could experience Seattle’s famous coffeehouses firsthand. In a city where the first Starbucks ever can be found at the famous Pike Place Market and its surrounding body of water, the Puget Sound has been found to possess high levels of caffeine. The tour shuttled the coffee lovers from Zoka Coffee & Tea to Hines Public Market, to Seattle’s first coffee shop Café Allegro.
A Specialty Tea Education
The Tea Association of the USA also held their 8th Tea Symposium at the nearby Crowne Plaza hotel, which included educational seminars on tea. Some examples of courses and workshop offered were: “The Healthy Benefits of Tea”, “Tea and Coffee: How to Make a Happy Marriage”, and “Blends and Trends of Specialty Tea”. The Speaker Luncheon topic, presented by Joseph Simrany, president of the Tea Association of USA, was “Steeped in Good Health”.
In addition, the organization conducted its new tea certification program, offering “Foundations of Tea: Levels One and Two”, which was booked up with people who wanted to be certified by this prestigious organization. The sessions concluded with a reception at Seattle’s famous, Space Needle.
The sheer number of people at the show proved that the industry has come a long way since the first humble SCAA show of 40 exhibitors in 1988. “After years of struggle and growth of the specialty coffee sector, I feel that Seattle proved that our industry has grown into mainstream volume and figures,” says Christian Wolthers, president, SCAA. “The American consumer is finally choosing to drink better coffees. This is the result of our industries’ efforts and level of commitment towards high quality standards, excellent service and efficient marketing techniques. Seattle, in fact, confirmed that we are headed in the right direction. It was spectacular!” said Wolthers.
Coffee with a Heart
As the specialty industry has grown, evidently so has its efforts towards social and environmental responsibility. From heated discussions about the CQI auctions at the symposiums to presence on the exhibition floor of Rainforest Alliance, Café Femenino Foundation, Grounds for Health, Coffee Kids Transfair USA and Utz Kapeh, these issues are definitely a priority for people at the show. A Coffee Kids reception was held, detailing its latest projects aimed at helping people living in coffee producing countries. The show’s traditional breakfast honoring women was sponsored by the Women’s Coffee Alliance and was conducted by Lynn Twist, founder of the Soul of Money Institute, which “draws upon women’s power to use work and money as an expression of the highest human commitments towards our communities and the world.” The breakfast congratulated women who are doing just that, including Sunalini Menon, who was granted a Lifetime Achievement Award for her service to women in coffee.
Following along that vein, the show began with an emotionally stirring keynote address by Dr. Jane Goodall, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, which leads the effort to protect chimpanzees and their habitats. The organization establishes innovative, community-centered conservation and development programs in Africa, and conducts the Roots & Shoots education program, which brings young people together in projects to help improve people’s lives and the environment. The theme of her speech was “reasons for hope”, stating that humankind can solve the problems it has imposed upon the earth. She also spoke about global sustainability and its importance to the future of all life forms on earth. Goodall congratulated the coffee industry on its efforts towards environmental and social sustainability, urging us to continue and to always keep the bigger picture in mind when striving for personal success in business. The audience came away with a strengthened resolve to work even harder towards helping the people and environments that have supported us for so long.
In addition, updates on the tsunami relief fundraising efforts were undertaken by many organizations including ForesTrade, Coffee Kids, and others. Rick Peyser, incoming president of the the SCAA, says these recognitions “provided many attendees with a sense of accomplishment and a renewed commitment to continue efforts to bring relief still needed in many affected communities.”
The Best Baristas
|Phuong Tran, of Lava Java in Washington, represented the U.S. at the World Barista Championship (WBC) at SCAA's 17th Annual Conference & Exhibition in Seattle.
The 6th Annual World Barista Championship 2005, produced by the SCAA in conjunction with the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE), took place across the street from the Convention Center during the show and was open to the public free of charge. The Championship, which takes place each year in a different country, is the ultimate Barista competition. The event tests every element required to produce a great cup of coffee. From technique and personal presentation, to beverage quality and taste, each competitor (winners from regional championships throughout the world) were judged on their skills in this competition to decide who will be named the world champion barista.
Competitors’ work was scrutinized by an international panel of judges, including one head judge, four sensory judges and two technical judges. Each competitor had to serve each of the four sensory judges a single espresso, a single cappuccino and a single signature beverage of his/her choice (espresso-based and alcohol-free), for a total of 12 drinks, during a period of 15 minutes or less.
Altogether, 35 baristas came from around the world to give it their all to achieve coffee supremacy. But in the end, Dane Troels Overdal Poulsen dominated. His unique signature drink featured green Madagascar pepper, lavender syrup, sugar drops and espresso. From Copenhagen, Denmark, Poulsen is a professional barista at Café Europa.
Hiroyuki Kadowaki of Café Rosso in Japan placed Second, and Salvatore (Sammy) Piccolo, of Caffe Artigiano in Canada, captured the number-three spot.
During the conference, the SCAA also hosted a Cupping Pavilion, which provided roasters and green coffee buyers with the opportunity to blind cup exceptional, carefully vetted coffees in a controlled environment. The Cupping Pavilion competition allowed specialty coffees to compete from Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Mexico, India, Indonesia, Colombia, Bolivia and Africa. The all around winner and highest scoring competitor of the Cupping Pavilion competition was Hacienda La Esmeralda from Panama.
The SCAA also recognized leading experts and professionals who made outstanding contributions to the specialty coffee industry at an awards ceremony. The winners have worked tirelessly towards the pursuit of coffee excellence and were all deserving of the recognition. The Diedrich family, whose patriarch Carl Diedrich passed away in 2001, won the Lifetime Achievement award. His sons Stephan and Martin Diedrich gave moving speeches about Carl’s extraordinary life and commitment to the industry, and detailed their paths towards joining their father’s business, and on how their family became an integral part of coffee history.
Cheers to a Great Show
On Sunday evening, attendees were treated to a “Back to the Future” fiesta at the Experience Music Project (EMO), in collaboration with the Songbird Foundation. Located directly across from Seattle’s Space Needle and developed by Paul Allen of Microsoft, EMP Is an interactive music museum bringing aural, visual and sensual experience to music lovers. SCAA attendees danced the night away to Latin jazz and salsa in celebration of a wildly successful show.
Founded in 1982, SCAA is the world’s largest coffee trade association with over 3,000 member companies. SCAA members are located in over 40 countries and represent every segment of the specialty coffee industry, from coffee growers to coffee roasters and retailers.
SCAA’s next conference will be in Charlotte, NC, April 7-10, 2006 with the theme of “Quality Tools for the Specialty Trade.” For more information, visit www.scaa.org.
Tea & Coffee - September/October, 2005
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