By Stephen Morrissey
The two days of incredible speakers and challenging topics at Re:co Symposium demands an intermission format that allows people to connect, debate, and decompress over great coffee. Over the years, the service has garnered a reputation for not only providing great coffee quickly, but for developing thoughtful menus with highly-qualified baristas and immersive service models. This effort has not gone unnoticed and surveys show most attendees value the coffee service as one of the key elements at the event.
Recognizing this reputation, we set about developing something a little different for 2016—some-thing that continued the focus on excellence while offering some-thing unique to Re:co. Incoming Barista Guild of America chair Laila Willbur returned in her role as lead on the project, and we set about planning.
The first step was building the menu. How many coffees? Do we change coffees throughout the event? How many bars do we need? Batch-brew or pour over? What would the bar look like? It was tough to decide on these things, because we wanted to do everything. So—that’s what we decided to do.
We built one beautiful large coffee bar, and then broke it down and rebuilt it again. Three times.
Re:co attendees turned up on Wednesday morning, greeted by a brightly lit pour over bar manned by an army of Level 2 Certified Baristas from across North America, all brewing stellar coffees on Hario V60s. The V-shaped bar was decorated with succulents, air plants, a selection of coffee magazines, and hanging light bulbs. The room was lit to match and a playlist of gentle, alternative folk music accompanied. The attendees sampled Askinsie chocolates while choosing their coffee from small wooden menu boards. Attendees acclimated to the space, enjoyed their coffees, and then left for the second session of the morning. When they returned, everything was different.
The entire room was lit in dark orange and upbeat pop songs blared over the speakers. A series of stanchions guided the flow towards the bar, which had now become one 30’ long orange counter, topped with large white tubs of chips and protein bars. Two gleaming Victoria Arduino Black Eagle espresso machines sat back-to-back, right in the middle and perpendicular to service, with two crews of baristas churning out espressos, cortados, and macchiatos. The wooden menus were gone, replaced with two large TV monitors streaming the day’s op-tions, and surrounded by an entirely different set of wall decorations.
The next morning was different again, two separate bars serving four single-origin espressos, followed by an Italian-themed bar, decorated with pictures of the late Renato Bialetti and large Mokka pots, and serving decadent Affogatos with ice cream from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream and delicious decaf espresso from Swiss Water.
Why go to these lengths? Because there isn’t one specific look and feel for specialty coffee. Each of these aesthetics offered great coffee, each is viable, and there are even far more models out there. Inherent in the idea of specialty coffee, is the appreciation of quality through diversity. That’s as true when it applies to different coffees from around the world, as it is for the many styles of prepa-ration and service. We wanted to celebrate that diversity.
Stephen Morrissey is the Senior Creative Advisor for the Specialty Coffee Association.