By Tracy Allen
I am honored to invite you to peruse the virtual pages of The Specialty Coffee Chronicle’s annual SCAA Event issue, where you’ll learn about the exciting things in store for our 27th Annual Exposition. The show kicks off on the evening of Thursday, April 9, with the Opening Ceremonies and SCAA Block Party, and runs through Sunday, April 12. (View Schedule of Events)
Once again, we’re staging The Event this year in the heart of the coffee mecca of Seattle, with four days packed full of the latest products, techniques, musings, and opinions on the beverage we all know and love like no other.
As a longtime SCAA member, I always look forward to The Event, where year after year I learn from my peers, make new friends, and witness coffee innovations unfolding before my eyes. The open collaboration and quality of ideas are always impressive, the trade show is diverse and energetic, and the lectures and skill-building workshops provide some of the best hands-on coffee education available.
Speaking of education, now in its seventh year, the SCAA Symposium has become one of the best places to get immersed in the Socratic method. This year, Symposium will be held at the Benaroya, home of the Seattle Symphony and a venue that is sure to provide a unique collaborative space. Registration even includes attendance to the Exposition trade show floor and competition hall.
Some of my favorite moments during the show happen at the competitions, which challenge would be champions on their roasting, tasting, and barista skills. Nerves are tested while skills are put through the toughest of scrutiny, but when performing for their peers, the best is brought out in each competitor. Everyone who participates deserves our thanks and recognition for putting themselves out there and being open to feedback.
This year, we’re excited to host the 18th annual World Barista Championship (WBC). Previous WBCs have been watched by thousands around the world in real time thanks to rich, streaming video and play-by-play action. I was involved in the formation of the U.S. Barista Championship and the growth of the WBC, and am thrilled to see the incredible level of excitement and professionalism they both enjoy today. Everyone’s invited to the party on Sunday, April 12 to congratulate the 2015 champion — don’t miss it!
A huge array of special events are in the works — something for everyone, no doubt. There are the Opening Ceremonies hosted by Marcus Boni (you want to see him sing and dance again, don’t you?), a coffeehouse tour through some of Seattle’s hippest neighborhoods, a visit to an espresso machine manufacturer and another to a Starbucks plant, the IWCA Breakfast and the CQI Luncheon (both of which can be ideal networking events), and an official networking mixer on Friday morning.
I personally can’t wait for the Java Jog For a Cause. Last year’s event in Seattle raised $35,000 for organizations that help coffee women of the Democratic Republic of Congo develop sustainable coffee production, and there was a second race was held in Rimini, Italy at the 2014 World Barista Championship. This year’s fundraising recipients will be coffee women of Ethiopia, a producing country that is near and dear to my heart, as well the official 2015 Portrait Country for The Event. I hope to see you out with your laces tied and quads warmed up for this fun, worthwhile 5K.
Another event that is always full of surprises is the Best New Products Competition. Exhibitors can submit their newest offerings in nine categories to be judged by their peers right on the exhibit floor. If you want to increase your product’s visibility but don’t want to compete for glory, you can submit it for the Innovation Showcase — an attention-grabbing glass case that attendees will walk right past on their way to the exhibition floor.
If you’re a producer, exporter or roaster looking for a venue to cup and sample your coffee, look no further than the Cupping Exchange. Renting a cupping room will keep you within easy reach of the Expo show floor, and comes with grinders, hot water towers, electrical, trays, cupping spoons, carafes and glassware. All you supply is the coffee and the cuppers.
The SCAA Sustainability Council has developed a Sustainable Events Strategy that gives exhibitors and attendees ways to help us reach our goal of 100% carbon neutrality for the event. While carbon neutrality is the way of the future for the planet, the SCAA is helping forge the future of specialty coffee. It’s a perfect union, and one we all should take seriously.
As you can probably tell by now, at the world’s biggest specialty coffee event of the year, there will be ample opportunity for every area of the industry to learn, network, and be inspired about the future. If you’re new to the SCAA Symposium and Expo, don’t be shy and don’t hesitate to sign up for your share of lectures, workshops, and after-hours events. We’re a friendly bunch that loves to meet newcomers, share ideas and talk shop—over a good cup of coffee, of course.
Tracy Allen is CEO of Brewed Behavior, a consultancy founded to offer comprehensive support to all segments of the coffee industry, and a member of the SCAA Board of Directors. Tracy started his coffee career immediately after college at Procter and Gamble, with Folgers and Millstone brands. He made his true entry into specialty coffee while Director of Operations of The Roasterie in Kansas City, MO, after which he went on to become co-owner of Zoka Coffee Roaster & Tea Co in Seattle, WA. Tracy has served on numerous SCAA committees and has been highly involved in the U.S. and World Barista Championships.