CoffeeCon Los Angeles brings together coffee professionals and enthusiasts to take classes, sip new and exciting brews, and experiment with new products.
BY SARAH GRANT
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
Photos by Sarah Grant
Coffee Con Los Angeles took place over the weekend (Feb. 3-4), kicking off the 2018 season of coffee consumer festivals designed to introduce local communities (Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and Chicago) to the world of specialty coffee. The event featured two days of exhibitors and concurrent classroom events—lectures, technical presentations, an espresso classroom, and the “Grey Goose Vodka Classroom” (a running coffee cocktail tutorial).
The presenter lineup ran the gamut of what new specialty-coffee consumers might be interested in, ranging from brewing tutorials to hosted cupping parties and coffee-chocolate pairings. The schedule also spoke to the diversity of the audience—from coffee-curious Angelenos who happened to pass by or see a poster around town to local baristas looking for a networking opportunity or simply out to see what other roasters have to offer right now.
Various classrooms featured talks ranging from the science of staling and freshness with Robert Wallach to structured “Taste Like an Expert” overviews from Peter Giuliano and Martin Dietrich. In a packed-to-the-brim, standing-room-only presentation, Heather Perry of Klatch Coffee introduced her audience to the basics of latte art, complete with a call-and-response, audience-participation-driven milk steaming moment.
Chuck Herrera of Good People Coffee Co. offered an “AeroPress Hacks” lecture in the “technical classroom.” In addition to sharing his “secret menu” offerings, he gave a fantastic and highly accessible overview of how to get the most out of an AeroPress and shared his personal experience using it in coffee competitions and experimental drink development.
A lecture on creating coffee community especially stood out. Matthew C. Torres of the Long Beach Coffee Club started his lecture by asking everyone to introduce themselves to their neighbor and share their favorite spot for coffee in their neighborhood. He walked the audience through his experience developing a formal “coffee club,” suggesting that defining his purpose and sharing his personal passion as a specialty-coffee consumer (without “being a jerk”) were key to creating a platform for community and civic engagement. It was the sort of idea that plenty of coffee consumers flirt with but don’t necessarily implement. Matthew offered a motivating model.
Lectures aside, it was exciting to see what the exhibitors had on offer for attendees. Temple Coffee Roasters came down from Sacramento to foster their connections in Southern California over amazing pourovers, while Riverside-based Arcade Coffee Roasters shared their coffee in an effort to showcase what small roasters can do while creating shared moments and experiences with their customers.
Inland Empire’s Augie’s Coffee Roasters used their first Coffee Con trip to debut their partnership with Voilà specialty instant coffee. The Augie’s Voilà variety pack contains blends and single origins roasted by Augie’s and subsequently freeze-dried by Voilà. Consumers had the opportunity to taste an Augie’s Ethiopia Guji pourover side-by-side with the instant version (they’re both ridiculously good).
This was a relatively rare opportunity, especially with the Augie’s crew on hand to offer up descriptions to new coffee consumers. Their creative vintage trading card brewing guides, a super tasty washed Colombian, and the friendliest baristas were an effective reminder of why we consume specialty coffee in the first place. And the lines at every exhibitor booth were a reminder that consumers are eager to taste and learn, but it takes a community effort to build consumer relationships in the specialty industry.