Busan Holds Its Second Coffee Trade Show Amidst COVID-19

The Korean city held another in-person coffee event in July with no reported cases of COVID-19 infection, despite other trade show cancellations.


Photos courtesy of Sunghee Tark

The view of the Busan Cafe Show from the entrance.

While cancellations of trade shows and coffee festivals continue globally in light of COVID-19, Busan, a southern port city in South Korea, held its second coffee trade show yet since the outbreak of COVID-19 late last month.

Busan Coffee Show was hosted in June at the Busan Exhibition and Convention Center (Bexco) alongside the International Food Festival. Between July 23 and 26, Busan Cafe Show served as the city’s second coffee festival since COVID-19, and its 16th edition in person. Over 90 booths participated in the event, representing a wide range of companies from smaller independent roasters to coffee equipment manufacturers. A handful of tea companies and artisans showcasing the Korean traditional tea ceremony attracted many visitors to their booths. There were also a noticeable amount of bakeries present to target those who wish to start their own cafés. At a corner of the show, a dozen independent vendors held a flea market, selling a wide range of objects from jewelry to silverware and clothes. Compared to other industry-focused trade shows, the 2020 Busan Cafe Show had various elements that appealed to the general public beyond coffee.

A wide tea selection and ceremony for observation and tasting at the show.

What attracted the largest number of coffee professionals attending the show was a booth collectively put together by Marine Beans, boasting a long queue of attendees waiting to sample the coffee. Marine Beans is a collective of 18 independent specialty-coffee roasters based in the Busan and Kyeongnam regions of Korea. The booth drew the attention of many, as it had brands like Werk Coffee Roasters and Team Dennis that have a rather solid follower base regionally, as well as at a national level.

Multiple cautionary steps were taken by the organizers to assure the safety of the attendees. At the ticket booth, everyone was required to complete a survey facilitated through a QR code on their mobile device. The survey asked if they had any symptoms, had recently visited a foreign country, or had come into contact with anyone who is symptomatic or has tested negative. The attendees were obliged to provide contact information to be reached in the future, in line with the testing and tracing policy of the country.

At the entrance, body temperature was taken twice. No attendees were allowed into the exhibition hall without a mask on, and everyone was provided with latex gloves to wear during their time at the show. The organizers also encouraged everyone to observe the show in one direction and monitored the inflow and outflow of people into the exhibition halls.

Temperature checks were conducted at the entrance of the Busan Cafe Show.

As a plethora of trade shows globally are being canceled or moved to virtual events through the rest of this year due to COVID-19, the in-person events held in Busan are noteworthy. No case of COVID-19 has been linked to the show yet.

The organizers at the Busan Cafe Show have announced their next in-person event will be held in October 2020. While South Korea currently boasts a relatively low total case of COVID-19, it is imperative that we stay vigilant to the health and safety concerns and risks of large gatherings such as trade shows.

Sunghee Tark is the co-founder of Bean Voyage, a feminist organization that collaborates with smallholder womxn coffee producers to build an equitable coffee value chain. She is also a freelance coffee writer, Specialty Coffee Association LEAD Scholar, and a 2020 Re:co Fellow.

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