The Re:co Symposium & SCA Expo addressed challenges facing specialty coffee

The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) held its annual Re:co Symposium and Specialty Coffee Expo last month (9-14 April) in Boston, Massachusetts, just prior to the Boston Marathon. Between Re:co and the Expo, all aspects of the specialty coffee industry were covered, from coffee price and labour challenges to inequality and diversity, and well as opportunities such as investments being made in the sector. Many awards were also given out during two-day symposium and three-day trade show.

For the first time, the Re:co Symposium (9-11 April) focused on one topic only — the coffee price crisis. Speakers addressed the on-going coffee price crisis and the subsequent challenges for all players in the specialty coffee supply chain. After the day and half of presentations that included topics such as Macroeconomic Dysfunction in the Coffee Trade, Cost of Production & Profitability for Coffee Producers, and Value Chains, Transparency and Market Linkages (for a more detailed account of sessions, see the Editor’s Blog), speakers and attendees broke into groups to collaborate and generate ideas on how to more actively tackle the issue.

The Re:co Symposium also served as a forum for several announcements, including the launch of the Coffee Science Foundation (CSF). Peter Giuliano, chief research officer, SCA, said the CSF was created to advance the understanding of coffee and secure its future through research, knowledge building and outreach. The CSF will provide funding and guidance to independent research entities. Two research projects are already in the works. One is World Coffee Research’s (WCR) International Multilocation Variety Trial, conducted in collaboration with WCR and UC Davis Coffee Center, which will explore and correlate the impact of genetics and environment on sensory descriptive analysis. WCR also announced the Global Coffee Monitoring Platform, which will help farmers decide which plants and practices are best suited for their farms.

The Leadership Equity and Diversity (LEAD) Scholarship Program was also announced during Re:co. Sponsored by S&D Coffee & Tea, LEAD is aimed at increasing diversity of leadership within the global coffee community by enabling access to professional development resources to people from under-represented or marginalized communities.

The SCA added a new category to its Sustainability Awards (winners were announced during Re:co, for full details, visit:, the Sustainability Champion Award, which acknowledges the work and impact of an individual. Esperanza Dionisio Castillo won for her project, “Mainstreaming Biodiversity Conservation and Climate Resilience at Yayu Biosphere Reserve” (sponsored by Union Hand-Roasted Coffee).

The SCA Expo kicked off with a welcome reception on 11 April, with a full day of lectures, competitions and trade show opening on the 12. Though foot traffic seemed lighter than the past two years in Seattle, Washington, exhibitors, according to the SCA hit a record high, and the show maintained its typical high level of frenetic energy. This year’s Portrait Country was Burundi, which held cuppings throughout the show and featured authentic music and dancing from Burundi drummers during a welcome reception.

The Expo also hosted a meet and greet for the SCA’s new United States chapter, which is comprised of six regions. Yannis Apostolopoulos, the new executive director and Heather Perry, the new SCA board president, along with several SCA staff and board members were present and fielded questions from a small group of attendees, many of whom were displeased about the merger between the SCAA and SCAE, and have been unhappy with the combined entity and how it has been managing business/operations. The SCA executives and board members in attendance were receptive to the feedback and seemed eager to enact changes and improvements.

This year’s Expo boasted an expanded lecture and skill-building program. As such, the schedule was slightly different this year with classes beginning at 8am and running through 1pm/13:00, with an additional session at 2pm/14:00. Lectures included: Demystifying Foreign Supplier Verification (FSVP); A New Descriptive Terminology for Brewing Control Chart: How to Maximize the Flavour Potential of Your Brewed Coffee; The Benefits of Being a Benefit Corporation; Power, Privilege & Responsibility: The Socioeconomic Landscape Between Coffee Buyers & Producers; A Two-Part Arc About the C Market and the Future of Specialty Coffee (Parts 1 & 2); and Building Out a Roasting Plant: Managing the Minutiae.

The USDA (US Dept of Agriculture), through its Food For Progress (FFPr) program, helps developing countries and emerging democracies modernize and strengthen their agricultural sectors — current investments exceed USD $90 million across several countries. Moderated by Johanne Alerte-Reyes, deputy director at the USDA, the Global Investment Opportunities in Coffee session addressed the challenges and opportunities within the global coffee sector, featuring panelists from the USDA (Foreign Agricultural Service), World Coffee Research, Conservational International and VUNA Origin Consulting.

The session posed several questions to the panellists, one of which was, what key policy restraints do coffee producing countries and/regions face? Sara Morrocchi, founder of VUNA Origin Consulting said the biggest challenge is that the private and public sectors are not working together. In terms of overcoming financial risk, the panelists agreed that producers must diversify their income and learn to speculate. But, Morrocchi asked, “how can we train coffee people to think and act more like finance people?”

The Best New Product Winners were announced during the Expo and included Bellwether Coffee in the Commercial Coffee or Tea Preparation & Serving Equipment category for its emissions-free roaster, Cometeer Coffee Capsule in the Open Class category and Steeped Coffee for Packaging.

The World Barista Championship and World Brewers Cup also took place during the SCA Expo. Jooyeon Jeon, of South Korea, took home the top spot in the 19th World Barista Championship. She is the second woman to do so after Agnieszka Rojewsk of Poland won in 2018. In the World Brewing Cup, Jia Ning Du, representing China, was the winner.

The 2020 SCA Specialty Coffee Expo will take place in Portland, Oregon, 23-26 April.

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