Bloom Hits Washington, D.C., for Its Second Stop

The Barista Guild’s 2019 Bloom tour sparks community-focused conversations across the nation.


Photos courtesy of Angela Ferrara

Bloom is a series of coffee events by the Barista Guild that brings together coffee professionals for a day of interactive discussions, with the aim of connecting national and local communities in the industry. This year, the event expanded to a tour of four stops across the United States in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles. On June 19, I attended Bloom’s Washington, D.C., stop.

Cassie Ash (left) and Adam JacksonBey chatting while folks get checked in at registration.

Erika Vonie, director of coffee at Trade Coffee, kicked off the day with a talk called “Everything Old Is New Again.” Erika, reflecting on her 10+ years in specialty coffee, covered a variety of topics in the hourlong talk; she discussed climate change (“It’s REAL!” she warned), roast profiles, the under-purchased range of specialty coffee scoring between 80-85 points, and supporting our customers by giving them what they really want.

Erika Vonie during her talk “Everything Old is New Again,” sharing thoughts about specialty coffee over her 10+ years in the industry.

“We don’t exist as an industry if we don’t have customers, right? We need to give them what they want,” Erika affirmed. And it turns out, based on orders placed at Trade Coffee, that many specialty-coffee drinkers actually want a medium- to dark-roasted coffee. “We forget that we weren’t born experts,” Erika added, suggesting that third-wave coffee professionals might try to be a bit more open-minded in what and how they serve. She ended her talk by serving Gateway, a medium roast from Small Planes Coffee, roasted with the intention of easing coffee drinkers into the nuance of specialty with an approachable, familiar, just-a-bit-darker flavor profile.

After a lunch break and many options for caffeinating, we got back down to business with the second panel of the day, “Innovation Culture in Food and Coffee,” led by Christopher Jordan of Coffee Manufactory and Chad Robertson of Tartine. Christopher and Chad talked about how they decided to open Coffee Manufactory together and their day-to-day business ethos.

Chad Robertson (left) and Christopher Jordan discussing innovation in the Bay Area and across the world.

“Keeping things simple is one of the most important things we do,” Christopher explained. “When things are simple, I think, ‘How can we simplify them even further?’”

Chad also touched on farming and milling grain, and linked bakers to baristas with their mutual love of experimentation and innovation for the sake of quality.

Later, Adam JacksonBey led a panel discussion titled “Creating Coffee Communities of the Future.” Ashley Whelan-Marascalchi of Expansion Coffee Project, Daps Salisbury of La Colombe, Weston Nicholson of Sugar & Twine, and Noelle Archibald of Lamplighter Coffee Roasters shared their thoughts on being involved in their respective specialty-coffee communities and brainstormed ways to make them more inclusive in the future.

“It’s really important to start by figuring out what a particular community wants from their community organizers before moving forward,” said Ashley.

A day filled with exciting ideas and many thoughtful speakers came to a close with a group sensory exercise called “Let’s Make Sense,” where attendees put salty, sweet, bitter, and savory cups in order of intensity.

Angela Ferrara is the director of communications and social media at The Barista League. She’s based in Baltimore.

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