Seattle Rain, Public Visitors, and New Champs at Expo’s Final Day

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The 2017 Global Specialty Coffee Expo drew to a close Sunday on a rainy afternoon in Seattle, setting thousands of attendees off into the dismal weather to start their journeys home or head to the Barista Guild of America party and other final-evening events.

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Hiroshi Sawada proudly displays the Skateboard Drip Coffee Stand he designed in the Hario booth.

While the weather was dreary, Expo 2017—the debut event of the newly formed Specialty Coffee Association—was anything but. Thousands upon thousands of specialty coffee professionals from around the globe descended on Seattle for an action-packed long weekend featuring a 400+-booth-strong exhibition hall, no less than five coffee competitions, and a strong showcase for some of the world’s best coffee.

Cup of Excellence-winning El Salvador producer Aida Batlle pulls shots at the Barista Guild of America Cafe, joined here by her old friend, Jeff Taylor, of PT’s Coffee and Bird Rock Coffee.

This annual event—whether under its old Specialty Coffee Association of America moniker or the new one—has traditionally been open only to industry members. On the final day of this year’s event, that changed: Sunday’s festivities were open to the public for a $50 admission fee. With Sunday traditionally being the slowest day of the show, opening it to the public likely counteracted the drop-off, and as a result Sunday’s vibrant throng seemed to match the attendance numbers of the event’s previous days.

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Show attendees get their picture taken with Juan Valdez at the expansive Federacion Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia booth. Taking a picture with this icon of Colombian coffee is an annual tradition for many show attendees.

Crowds were certainly in full effect in the U.S. Coffee Championships area, where the U.S. Barista Championship drew an overflowing collection of onlookers. While the crowd was treated to six stellar finals performances, there could be only one winner: Congratulations to Kyle Ramage from Mahlkonig USA in Durham, N.C.—your 2017 United States Barista Champion! (See the complete list of competition winners here.) Kyle will represent the USA at the 2017 World Barista Championship, taking place November 9-12 in Seoul, South Korea. 

The top six baristas of the 2017 United States Barista Championship, from left: Josh Taves (6th), Bethany Hargrove (5th), Sam Lewontin (4th), Kyle Ramage (winner!), Talya Strader (3rd), and Andrea Allen (2nd).

The memories of Expo 2017 are likely still a blur to the hordes of attendees who graced the Washington State Convention Center over the last several days. But as the dust settles, the debut Global Specialty Coffee Expo will likely be remembered as a powerful, very well-attended global gathering in one of America’s signature coffee cities. Not bad for a first effort.

About Chris Ryan 236 Articles
Chris Ryan (he/him) is Barista Magazine's online copy editor and a freelance writer and editor with a background in the specialty coffee industry. He has been content director of Sustainable Harvest and the editor of Fresh Cup Magazine.