Recapping the 2015 Seattle SCAA Expo
By Jeremy Martin
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
Well, Seattle, you did it again. For the second year in a row, you played host to the
Specialty Coffee Association of America’s (SCAA) informative and thoroughly entertaining weekend of networking, coffee innovation, award-winning barista performances, and parties. And you did it all under mostly blue skies and with mild temperatures.
You were most accommodating to me and more than 10,000 of my closest friends who descended on the Washington State Convention Center, set up camp, and generally became coffee gluttons for four consecutive days.
Seattle, you never lost your temper. Not when we jammed up all your Uber lines while trying to get to parties every night. Not when we overran an entire city block on Capitol Hill for the SCAA’s opening reception. Not even when so many of us stood in line for the
Food4Farmers Ice Cream Social that we snaked through entire trade show floor sections ”and even we were freaking out a little bit.
Atlanta ”site of the 2016 SCAA show ”you’ve got some big shoes to fill as a host city for the ear’s biggest gathering of coffee professionals. Here’s a glimpse into what made the Seattle SCAA experience so darned special.
Like last year’s, the 2015 SCAA opening ceremony took place in an expansive and well laid out 6th floor presentation hall. The theater quality sound and video system was once again a nice touch, and the room itself was large enough to hold a major sporting event.
Many of us made it to the opening ceremony, although, as the only two-thirds filled room would indicate, another large portion of SCAA attendees had already begun drinking for the night. And then there were the folks (like those pictured here) who chose to do both! They’re the real heroes among us.
The charismatic and talented Marcus Boni returned for an encore performance as SCAA opening ceremonies emcee after he brought down the house doing the same gig in 2014. This time however, he brought with him his love for musical theater. Like an overture at the beginning of a performance, Marcus hit on all the major points of the weekend, speaking (and singing) the virtues of the exhibition hall, the importance of sponsors, the need for volunteers, the World Barista Championship, and of course the nearly limitless amounts of coffee to be had during the weekend.
Calling it an evening on the opening ceremony, Marcus decided to go full Lionel Richie on us, giving his rendition of “All Night Long” before starting a conga line that led almost all the way to Capitol Hill.
One of the best parts of any SCAA weekend is running into old friends you know from past events. As always, we saw Steve and Brandon from Bodhi Leaf Trading Company, an Orange, Calif. green coffee importer. Steve and Brandon are easy to find as they deck themselves out in hunters orange and generally only wear shoes if mandated by law. Well, actually I’ve only ever seen Steve wear sandals. Either way it was great to hear that they’re both doing well and that Bodhi leaf is working on a major expansion. Expect a full cafe and roastery to open soon, complementing the great work they’ve been doing bringing green coffee into Southern California.
1847 made it to the event this year. I’m not sure where the guys parked their horses or how they intend to travel back through time to get home, but I guess that’s not really my problem. Nah, just kidding: Saint Anthony Industries and their rad aprons were super popular at the Expo.
This guy paints with spent coffee grounds. It’s super neat. It’s also super messy. You might want to start your kids off with water color before you encourage this type of creativity.
Despite all of the fun, the mass consumption of coffee, and for some the singing and dancing, we shouldn’t forget just how important each year’s SCAA event is to the small businesses that rely on the networking, face-time and exposure that this type of convention can bring. With that in mind, every year several business choose to launch products, or in some cases entire concepts right on the showroom floor. This year, the Great Eastern Sun company of Asheville, North Carolina, debuted an amazingly relaxing, sippable miso based drink. It’s not coffee, it’s even a bit of a stretch to call it tea, but this healthy and invigorating beverage can be mixed with cayenne pepper, honey, ginger, or any other medicinal or stimulating additive to create unique and healing concoctions.
At each SCAA event certain themes and trends become obvious. It may begin subtly, but as you wander around the floor and talk with people, you begin to see trends. Whether it’s companies piggybacking on existing ideas or unique ideas taking shape in different parts of the world, it’s not always easy to tell. This year, the idea of portability seemed to be a major thread on the floor. Easy, all in one, single cup serving vessels and devices made for motion that was the order of the weekend. Such as this personal cold brew filter and travel cup by Hario.
Handheld and portable grinders (which I might add are now becoming available with easy to use and highly adjustable grind settings) are becoming more commonplace. This one from Milco for example can grind enough for about two cups of coffee, comes in several attractive wood finishes, and has a full parts warranty.
Espro was one of several companies getting in on the portable brewer game. We’ve already seen a rush towards disposable pour over pods, but now we’re seeing a much larger concentration of people working on easy to clean, simple, and portable all in one French presses. These brewers double as travel mugs, and often come with several lid options so you can make your coffee with a press lid, then switch over to a standard sipping lid when completed. This model by Espro has an interchangeable filter that can easily be removed and cleaned. One filter for coffee and a finer filter for tea. A simple and neat idea. The 32oz model is already on the market, but the single serving 16oz cups won’t be ready until this summer.
Speaking of portability: the Omega brewer by Curtis is perfect for the busy professional on the go who needs a quick 14.5 gallon dose of coffee before that next stressful board meeting or business trip. The 28-ounce brew basket is about double the size of a child’s head and can also be used as a harvest basket for picking apples in the fall. Fully programmable by tablet, the Omega can create up to 36 gallons of coffee per hour without stressing its systems and also doubles as your date to robo-prom.
Didn’t get enough coffee over the weekend? Purchase your own tree. Just don’t get your hopes up regarding a fully operational coffee farm in the living room. Much like that time I planted pot seeds in the dirt outside my bedroom window in high school, you shouldn’t expect the good stuff to grow on its own….that, as I’m sure you’ve learned, is an entire industry unto itself.
There you have it, Seattle: a small scrapbook of our time together. I thank you once again for putting on such a wonderful showcase. You have been incredible. Now on to Atlanta! Go Hawks! (see what I did there? It works for both cities. Sports!).