Reflections from the Randy Wirth Fellow

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By Mbula Musau

When I applied for the Re:co symposium scholarship for 2016, I was just a curious Kenyan coffee girl, eager to learn what was happening in the world of coffee since I’d last checked a few minutes ago. In the coffee world, something new to you or your coffee friends is being unleashed at every minute. I have attended SCAA’s Expo for eight of the nine years of my international coffee experience; since 2007. However, Symposium was always elusive for me due to financial or employer time constraints. With a newly registered business of my own (www.utakecoffee.com), I was now able to try for the scholarship. I received the email of acceptance and was thrilled! I was also selected to receive the Randy Wirth Fellowship Award, given in honor of the late Randy Wirth of Café Ibis, which covered my travel expenses—joy! The stars had aligned. I signed up for the formal mentorship program, and was matched with Brigida Salgado, a producer from Brazil. We got to share a lot—but most profound was our goals in specialty coffee and how we intended to get there. Coffee prevailed over the slight language barrier, and remained an excellent means of communication. We worked it out!

New and renewed coffee conversations, connections, commitments, and collaborations rang in the air, through trendy and trending topics that were specifically selected to represent what’s on the mind of the coffee community. 25 speakers broke it down. Cold brew—one of the subjects that had been on my mind a lot in the last few months, consumer research, the labor crisis, generational change’ climate change, and consolidation and unification, all at a global level.

At the lounges set aside for: (fine) coffee service, sensory experience, conversation, book – store, dialogue and connection, we could break away for more intimate discussion within the same space. That is always useful.

My favorite quote of the symposium: “You can’t make cheap sausage good, or good sausage cheap. The same goes for coffee.” And the same thing even goes for a symposium; and no expense or effort was spared to make this year’s Re:co more than merely “good.” Thank you SCAA, S&D Coffee and Tea and other sponsors, and The Randy Wirth Award for enabling me to have this a great experience.

Ms. Mbula Musau is an independent consultant based out of East Africa who serves the international coffee sector in the areas of quality training, marketing, project development and management. As an internationally certified Q instructor and barista trainer and judge for over 15 years, she collaborates with organizations and institutions that work in different areas including strategic development agenda for the coffee industry. She is a renowned champion and promoter of gender equity in all coffee sector engagements.