The inaugural POUR Coffee Festival took place last week, celebrating and bringing together the Charlotte, N.C., coffee community.
BY TORI PARTIN
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
There was excitement buzzing through the air last Saturday, March 3, as POUR Coffee Festival held its first event at Charlotte, N.C.’s Unknown Brewing Company. (We previewed the event here.) In the first hour, attendees got their initial hits of caffeine from roasters such as Methodical Coffee, Pure Intentions Coffee, and Joe Van Gogh, and darted from booth to booth with an enthusiasm that radiated off the walls. But as the day went on, attendees were no longer just running up to booths with sample cups extended and then walking away. They were still happy and smiling, but they were lingering, talking to baristas over their brews and connecting. And this was the significant difference between POUR and other coffee festivals.
POUR started as an idea in November 2017 from Diana Mnatsakanyan-Sapp, director of operations at Undercurrent Coffee, and Matt Dudley of Marco Beverage Systems. Their goal was to create an outstanding gathering of coffee enthusiasts and professionals alike who were invited into a welcoming space to learn, grow, and share their passion for coffee. Lined along the walls of the brewery’s event space were some of the biggest names in roasting as well as some exciting newcomers. But never once did the environment feel overwhelming or crowded. With impressive sponsors such as Slingshot Coffee, La Marzocco, and Pacific Foods Barista Series, the event had the potential to be intimidating, but it was the exact opposite. Intimate enough for conversation and education to take place, POUR created a space where coffee knowledge could be shared and celebrated.
At each booth, roasters chose coffees to showcase as pourovers, sharing the flavor notes, country of origin, and even the names of the farmers they collaborated with. This up-close-and-personal tasting experience paved the way for discussions about a wide variety of topics that not every enthusiast or coffee professional gets to have on a daily basis. Along with the tastings, there were demonstrations that covered subjects ranging from latte art basics to coffee origins. These demonstrations provided a bridge between the art and science of the coffee industry that can often be forgotten.
And as important as the festival was for people in the Charlotte coffee community, POUR also reached beyond those confines, gaining attention from the public and many media outlets that might not have normally covered an event centered on coffee. And this in turn showcased the best that the coffee community can bring, which includes using its platform for the greater good. Conversations about fair versus direct trade and recognition of coffee farmers took place, as well as conversations bringing awareness to other pressing issues the world of specialty coffee faces. On the POUR Coffee Festival website, there is a quote that reads, “Putting on coffee festivals is fun, but empowering our community is even better.” POUR demonstrated it was more than just an event to talk about coffee, but an opportunity to share ideas and to spotlight social issues through partnership with organizations like Women Investing in Northwest Coffee Champs.
Coffee represents many things: a business, an art form, a community builder, and an ever-changing educational experience. From the science of roasting to the technique of milk steaming to how consumers view it, there is so much to learn. Coffee festivals like POUR give professionals and enthusiasts alike a place to grow, network, reach out, and explore their passion. As barista and attendee Hayley Vaughn said, “This is a space where I feel comfortable. I’m thriving by being surrounded by people who see things the way I see them. They understand that coffee is a passion, not just a drink.” That statement exemplifies that those in attendance at POUR Coffee Festival exceeded even the best of expectations by creating a safe place to learn, grow, and ignite a passion for the coffee industry.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tori Partin is a full-time barista in Durham, N.C., and freelance social media consultant. She’s passionate about building community through coffee and spreading kindness. On her days off, she spends most of her time listening to true-crime podcasts and trying to pet all the dogs she comes into contact with.