Our Experience at the Global Specialty Coffee Expo in Seattle, Washington!
On April 20-23 2017, we embarked on an adventure to Seattle to attend the Global Specialty Coffee Expo! It was so much bigger and better than we could have imagined. Thousands of people from 75 countries attended, thus the enormous Washington State Convention Centre was packed to the hilt. While we experienced incredible learning, I would say the biggest element to the weekend was connection with others. In fact, we may have discovered the "why" behind our coffee roasting business (more on this near the end of blog post).
We flew out of Edmonton at 5pm. When we arrived, we wasted no time. After a quick check in and freshen up at the hotel, we walked to the Paramount Theatre for the Specialty Coffee Association of America Launch Party for the Expo. Walking in the doors of the theatre was like entering marti-gras party. Overflowing with people, there was music, a latte art throw-down, and two floors of partying and mingling. The feature country, Kenya, had delegates dressed in traditional Kenyan clothing, performing drumming and dance as well. While at the party, we ran into some contacts from the FNC (Colombian Coffee Federation) that Santiago had met back in October during his origin trip. It was nice to make some connections in the vast sea of faces.
Friday morning was exciting! We had previously registered in a Master Roasting Class with Scott Rao, author of The Coffee Roaster’s Companion, and spent the morning learning about coffee roasting from this world authority on coffee! We also had a chance to meet Lee Safar, inventor behind Elixir Specialty Coffee. We had a chance to taste her product which, "looks like whisky, feels like tea, made from coffee". It was quite refreshing and delicious.
Following the Scott Rao workshop, we took an Uber and headed to the Washington State Convention Centre to check in at the Expo and take in the trade show floor. The trade show was massive and there were hundreds of vendors set up. We discovered so many cool products and even took a selfie with the roasting machine we plan on growing into, the San Franciscan. We spent hours walking the vast trade show floor, took in some competitions and sampled coffee from fellow roasters in the Roasters Village.
Saturday morning we headed directly to the educational lectures and really enjoyed learning from some of the industry's best. The afternoon consisted of us touring the tradeshow and continuing to meet people and discover many unique brewing methods and products.
We ran out to Pike Place Market for a late lunch and had some amazingly delicious wild salmon sandwiches at a dingy little hole in the wall.
We got back to the Expo in time for the Roasters Guild of America mixer and annual general meeting. We connected with some fellow Canadians and befriended a roaster from Puerto Rico who invited us to come visit! After the meeting, we headed to our next location for the Roasters Guild After Party. They rented out a whole bar and it was an extremely fun evening of networking with roasters from around the world!
After a very late night, we were pretty tired but amped up for our last day in Seattle. We headed back to the Expo and spent a few hours connecting with vendors in the trade show and watching competitions. At lunch, we said goodbye to the Expo and headed to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. It was a pretty impressive place and we enjoyed chatting with one of their roasters and sampling a tasting flight of their specialty coffees paired with handmade truffles. We explored a small piece of Seattle on foot that afternoon and said goodbye as we headed to the airport for our evening flight home.
As roasters, and people relatively new to the coffee industry, this expo offered a plethora of learning experiences for us. We were able to connect with so many people ranging from coffee educators, to experienced roasters, cafe owners, producers, importers and fellow roasters who are just a couple years ahead of us and willing to share advice and their experiences with us. The world of coffee is full of incredibly passionate people who live and breathe coffee. It is such a multi-faceted world with unlimited potential for learning, growth and expansion. We are people who tend to immerse ourselves into our passions and interests with intensity and this weekend showed us that we are not alone in this within the specialty coffee industry!
One of the most important things to us, in any large scale endeavor, is that what we are doing, in some way, improves the lives of others. Putting our energy into something has to have some greater effect than just being our passion or something that we like. What is the point of doing anything if it doesn't contribute positively? So how does being a coffee roaster contribute quality to the lives of others? During a seminar with Chris Baca of Cat and Cloud out of California, we found part of the answer to our question woven into his content…
3 THINGS THAT MAKE COFFEE SPECIAL:
SOCIAL ASPECT- People gather and connect over coffee. It is an extremely social beverage where people gather and share experiences over a cup.
CONNECTIVE EXPERIENCES- When you wake up in the morning, a cup of coffee is a common way to start the day. Whether you're simply planning your day or how to take over the world, your coffee is there with you. It is also a beverage that comes from exotic locations and thus, indirectly connects you to its place of origin and the hands who produced it. Coffee truly connects you to ideas and places greater than yourself.
INTRICATE COMPLEX BEVERAGE- Coffee contains over 800 aromatic compounds and could be considered one of the most multifaceted beverages on earth. "The process that turns these seeds into a beverage is a long and complex process, perhaps the most complex process associated with any major beverage” (1).
So there you have it. Coffee is not just a beverage, it is full of complex character ranging from it’s actual chemical makeup, to the hands that produce it, to the way it brings people together and accompanies you in your daily life. Coffee is truly "a memory, an anticipation, a lifetime of consoling moments of modest pleasure woven into our lives" (2).
This weekend, we believe we discovered why we feel such a passion for roasting coffee. To craft and provide something that has the ability to enhance human connection and enjoyment is something that makes our hearts sing!
We are so excited to continue our growth as roasters and to continue connecting with our home community!
-Kristin & Santiago