And then there were…

When I think of 2020 conferences, conventions and trade shows, I am reminded of the Agatha Christie novel, And Then There Were None, as so many, well, almost all this year, have fallen victim to the Covid-19 pandemic. (Since March, I believe only the National Coffee Association’s Annual Convention, Pack Expo East and Coffee Fest New York took place as planned.)

The most “active” section in our magazine the last few months has been our Calendar page (now two pages as opposed to its normal one page) as we try to keep up with all the show postponements and cancellations as a result of Covid-19. (Our online Events section here has the most up-to-date information).

Many shows postponed immediately, such as Interpack (Düsseldorf, Germany), whose organisers announced the show would be moving from May to February 2021. The London Coffee Festival postponed its event and coffee week from April to July, while World of Coffee (Warsaw, Poland) and the renamed World Tea Conference + Expo (Denver, Colorado) both announced the shows would be postponed from June to October. The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) was forced to completely cancel its 2020 Specialty Coffee Expo (April, Portland, Oregon) and focus on the 2021 edition in New Orleans, Louisiana.

When I wrote a blog in March (12th, “Not Business as Usual”) about all the Covid-19-related show postponements and cancellations, I remember wondering how many more would be impacted, and if any fall 2020 conferences, conventions or trade shows would actually take place. Well, it was not long before all summer events were cancelled including the rescheduled London Coffee Festival, Coffee Fest Chicago and Anaheim and the Amsterdam Coffee Festival. The Japan International Tea Show, which was originally scheduled for July (1-3) in Tokyo, has been postponed until October (5-7), and as of now, is still scheduled to take place, but we’ll see…

Slowly, September events started to announce cancellations and postponements such as the International Coffee Organisation’s (ICO) 5th World Coffee Congress that was scheduled to take place in Bangalore, India. The North American Tea Conference (NATC), which alternates between being held in the United States and Canada, was scheduled to take place in in Queens Landing, Ontario this year — the first time the event was not being held in Toronto. The NATC has now been postponed to the same location in September 2021. The Global Dubai Tea Forum, which takes place every two years, has also been postponed indefinitely Our own Tea & Coffee World Cup (originally scheduled for September in Istanbul, Turkey) has been postponed until further notice.

The Swiss Coffee Trade Association (SCTA) announced early on that its annual Gala & Forum (October, Geneva, Switzerland) is cancelled this year, as is the Specialty Coffee Association of Japan Conference (October, Tokyo). And just this week, World Tea Conference & Expo organisers announced that the 2020 event, postponed from June to October, will be cancelled as the ban on large-scale gatherings remains in place in Denver for the remainder of the year.

This would have been the first time WTC&E, which usually takes place in Las Vegas, Nevada, would have been held in Denver.

For now, the few events that have not yet announced postponements or cancellations include: the SCA’s World of Coffee (15-17 October, Warsaw); Triestespresso (22-24 October, Trieste, Italy); Gulfood Manufacturing (3-5 November, Dubai, United Arab Emirates); the rescheduled Melbourne International Coffee Expo (3-6 November, Melbourne, Australia) and Pack Expo International (8-11 November, Chicago, Illinois), but again, we will see — I am not optimistic any “physical” events will take place this year.

Sintercafé, which takes place annually in November in Costa Rica, announced that its event would be virtual this year. The Tea & Herbal Association of Canada, which was hosting this year’s NATC, has “Virtual Gathering” planned for 29-30 September.

Some conferences and trade shows have already held virtual events in place of “in-person” ones such as the SCA’s Specialty Coffee Expo, which hosted a virtual “Expo Weekend” in late April. The ICO’s biannual meeting of its International Coffee Council and other ICO bodies, held week-long virtual meetings in place of its April event. And today, the SCA’s virtual two-day Re:co Symposium begins (the April event was cancelled).

I have attended many more webinars and virtual events than usual since the Covid-19 crisis began and they have all gone well — good content and great speakers, although there are often technical issues of some sort. However, I do find that shorter works better — if they are too long (1.5 hours max per session), they can be a bit draining, but all-in-all, the virtual events have become strong substitutes to the “live or in-person” events, which is a relief since we do not know when the “physical” ones can safely resume.

Tea & Coffee Trade Journal will continue to update our readers about 2020 conference, convention and trade show announcements as news becomes available. For more information, visit: www.teaandcoffee.net or the Calendar section in our monthly issues (July/August being the newest one).

Stay safe and be well and hopefully we will all be able to see each other in person again soon!

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