Regional Perspectives from SCAA International Education Partners

For our most recent issue of The Chronicle, we explored many different aspects of traveling as a coffee professional. As a global trade organization, SCAA works with coffee folks from around the world through many of our programs, events, and committee work. We’d be remiss to write about coffee travel and not include something about our international membership that is actively engaged in delivering quality coffee education to those who are eager to learn.

So, we posed a few questions to members of the International Education Partnership License (IEPL) program, which allows members to offer SCAA educational programming to members of the international specialty coffee community. Here’s what they had to say about what makes their region unique in terms of specialty coffee:

The Questions:

  1. In terms of specialty coffee, what is unique and special about your region that sets you apart from the rest of the world?
  2. What advice would you give to those traveling to your region seeking a specialty coffee experience?
  3. What places or experiences should travelers be sure to seek out when visiting your region?
  4. What do you foresee as the biggest new industry trend particular to your region?

The Answers:

Ryan Godinho, UAE Coffee Events, United Arab Emirates

Specialty coffee is still in its infancy in this region. The United Arab Emirates is home to only five local roasters who have established themselves in this market, catering to the entire specialty coffee consumer population amongst the 8.5 million people living here. This region offers tremendous potential for international specialty coffee roasters given the diversity of cultures among the coffee consumers in the region. In the UAE alone, there are about six million expatriates originating from 55+ countries constituting a melting-pot of cultures and palates.

This region has been dominated by the major coffee franchises who import their roasted beans. Those traveling to the UAE would truly be limited in their search for a specialty coffee experience. One must, however, visit Café Bateel. With a seamless blend of European café elegance and the distinct character of Arabic heritage, many of the staff here have also undergone SCAA’s skill building workshops and BGA Certifications year after year. So you can be sure they are making every attempt at standing out from the local conventional coffee shops. Another popular haunt would be Australia’s ‘Jones the Grocer’ who have set up retail outlets in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and whose claim to fame hail from serving Melbourne’s St Ali specialty coffee in-house to the local market.

We believe the next trend would be an influx of specialty roasters who see the UAE as an ideal business opportunity with the tax-free environment, an affluent lifestyle, and extensive market reach both regionally and internationally. We may also start to see independent cafés who operate micro-roasteries and cater to the various neighborhood communities.

Pamela Chng, Bettr Barista, Singapore

The specialty coffee scene in Singapore has influences from all over the world – Australia, New Zealand, America, Europe  – which makes for a great cosmopolitan introduction to the wonderful world of specialty coffee.

Seek out the little boutique specialty coffee spaces and try out signature blends from the growing number of micro-roasters.

We have a number of unique cafés and coffee concepts, some set in beautiful venues. Pick up a Bettr Barista Cafe Guide – it’s a great starting point!

Specialty coffee is fairly new in Singapore, with over 30 new specialty coffee-focused cafés opening in the past 18 months alone. This is amazing exponential growth! With a huge variety of experiences now available, you will find a café with a menu and ambience to suit most. From venues for the most discerning coffee connoisseur, complete with a tasting bar, to chill, laid-back venues and tiny hidden cafès featuring the offerings of young talented roasters. The biggest new trends I think will be a greater focus on the skill levels of coffee professionals in this region, as well as the quality and traceability of sustainably sourced beans, freshly roasted in a variety of styles.

Clint Hendry, 2013 International Coffee Expo, Australia

Melbourne is the home of a rich food, wine, craft beer, and coffee culture. Coffee is central to the day-to-day lives of Melbournians and their passion for specialty coffee seems to know no bounds.

The Melbourne industry has grown out of a rich italian espresso heritage, born in the 1950s, and has evolved into a world-class, third-wave coffee movement with new and exciting approaches to serving coffee. The Asia Pacific region is a booming coffee market and Melbourne is the heartland of Australasia’s specialty coffee scene. It’s becoming increasingly common for Melbourne coffee consumers to indulge in espressos and different brewing methods such as syphon coffee and cold drip. Our market has triggered a new interest in specialty coffee, and combined with award-winning baristas and internationally-acclaimed roasters, Melbourne is one of the most ground-breaking coffee cultures in the world.

What also sets us apart is our passion. Melbourne is the home of literally hundreds of specialty coffee roasters, all priding themselves on their ability to source, roast, and brew some of the world’s finest coffee. Visitors to Melbourne will find that it’s a coffee-hub like no other.

My advice would be to be open to new methods of coffee drinking and new cultures. Melbourne’s coffee scene is all about hidden pop-up venues, tattooed baristas and chalk-board menus that announce single-origin coffees of the day, tasting profiles and the origins of the bean. Melbourne baristas are detailed and passionate about the coffee they serve. People should embrace their knowledge and not be afraid to be educated about the coffee they’re drinking.

Visitors will find authentic specialty coffee experiences from many Melbourne CBD-located cafès, but a few stand out. Favorites include: Seven Seed’s Brother Baba Buda in the CBD, St Ali in South Melbourne, Proud Mary in Collingwood, Sensory Lab in Little Collins St, Veneziano First Pour in Abbotsford, League of Honest Coffee in the CBD, Switch Board in Collins St and Market Lane Coffee in Prahan.

The great thing about Melbourne cafés is that the most intriguing cafés and best-served coffee are often tucked-away. From an underground railway café to a hole in the wall in a side building with milk crates out front, Melbournians like unique, alternate settings and, most of the time, this is where you’ll stumble across hidden café gems.

The biggest industry trend at the moment is the advancement of alternate brewing methods. From syphon, to cold drip, pour over and filter coffee, more and more specialty coffee locations are introducing a menu of brewing methods that are not only appealing for the customer to observe, but produce quality coffee that offers something different than traditional milk-based coffees.

We’re also seeing the number of in-house roasting venues increase. More and more cafés want control of the product they’re serving, and whether it’s a small batch roaster or something more industrial at the back of their shop, there’s something appealing about sourcing your beans and then roasting them to your own taste profile.

Single origins are of course featured at all specialty coffee cafés, with menus regularly changing. These days a café menu is much like a restaurant: there are options to suit each taste, from the sweet to the fruit-toned flavors, to bitter and chocolate.

Emma Markland Webster, New Zealand Specialty Coffee Association, New Zealand

We are quite geographically isolated and have probably more roasters per capita than anywhere else in the world. For a country of only four million we have (it’s estimated) 140+ roasters.

There are so many roasters to choose from the choices are numerous, as each roaster sits in a different market. Check to see which city you are in first and visit the one or two of the many roastery/cafés.

Visit the South Island! I am biased as I do live in the south. The landscapes between regions vary greatly: glaciers, mountains, rough rivers, seaside towns.

Hopefully people understanding single origins and drinking and appreciating coffee in a softer brew method. New Zealand is very espresso-based.

Saxon Wright, Director, Pablo & Rusty’s Specialty Coffee, Australia

We have a growing number of exceptional cafe’s that offer an amazing experience, with strengths in service, design, food, and of course, great coffee. I have not found anywhere else that has done it with all four elements.

Research. You don’t just stumble across quality venues. Many are hidden, many don’t market themselves, relying purely on word of mouth, and many are in interesting and diverse places. You need to talk to people in the industry and also check out blogs or other specialty coffee avenues, (eg. broadsheet in Aus, but there are plenty around). Also, plumb twitter and the social avenues.

Sydney Harbour is amazing – just wander across the bridge and around the bays and then to the beaches! What can I say? Also, the blue mountains on a geography note. But a side trip to Melbourne with its cultural hum is a must.

In terms of trends – filter coffee. Probably sounds strange for people overseas, but we have a long history in espresso and we are now exploring what filter can be, especially with new access to high end specialty lots. We are seeing all kinds in many locations – we focus on aeropress, but different places are exploring pour overs, syphon and cold drip.