Trips: A First Timer Reflects on the SCAA Meeting

Written by Cafe Campesino on May 1, 2004 in NEWSLETTER, Trips |
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As I rode down the escalator into one of the three enormous buildings which comprise the Georgia World Congress Center, I was impressed by the huge number and variety of booths at this year’s Specialty Coffee Association of America conference. The buzz and bustle of people mingling and connecting filled the air.

“Today’s newspaper,” a lady said while handing me a copy of Morning Cup as I reached the bottom of the escalator.

“Thanks,” I replied as I stepped into the large convention center and attempted to figure out where the booths for Café Campesino and Cooperative Coffees were located.

This was my first experience at a coffee convention; indeed, it was my first experience at any type of industry-specific convention. It was a huge mix of slick salesmen in three-piece suits and laid back baristas wearing cargo pants and Tevas™. There were companies pitching their restaurant software, or their accounting software, all specifically designed for those in the coffee business. Women stood at booths selling any variety of insulated mug one could desire, and stands selling cinnamon-coated almonds lent a spiced bite to the air.

“With so much to see, the show can be a bit overwhelming,” said Lee, our roaster. “However, since being in Americus doesn’t expose us to other coffee roasters, it’s great to be able to see what else is going on in the world of coffee.”

This year, we didn’t have far to travel. The 16th annual conference was held in Atlanta, Georgia, only 2 1/2 hours north of Americus. Because of this, all of us who work here got a chance to go. Kurt, our production assistant, and I went up on Friday evening to help run the booth on Saturday and Sunday. Jason, our graphics man, and Geoffrey, our resident web dude and outreach coordinator, went up a little early to set up our booths. I must say, we had a couple of snazzy-looking booths!

As suggested by its name, the SCAA isn’t limited to just Fair Trade coffee partners, and therefore we were given the chance to mingle with all sorts of folks from all parts of the coffee industry, as well as some in related industries, such as restaurants and computer software. The SCAA was created in 1982 by coffee professionals who wanted to set quality standards for specialty coffee. Currently, there are 2500 members, and the SCAA is involved in coffee production, roasting and brewing all over the world.

“What a great chance to hang out with everyone from producers to the folks that make the brewers,” said Geoffrey.

And indeed we could. Just across from our booth was that of a Kenyan producer group. Further down our aisle were several brewing equipment companies, as well as the booth of a smoothie shop. And this was just one aisle out of more than 20!

Several of our fellow southeast Cooperative Coffees roasters joined us at the convention. It was great to have Bongo Java Roasting Co. of Tennessee there, and their espresso machine, as well as Larry’s Beans of North Carolina, who were serving up drip coffee along with us at Café Campesino. Bongo Java’s come up with an excellent treat that combines a freshly pulled shot with ice cream on a stick.

Lee spent much of his time at the many workshops held during the conference, along with the roasters from several of our fellow Coop members.

“Most of my time was spent in cuppings,” said Lee, “tasting about 15 different varieties of coffees. In the advanced cupping, we also tasted for various defects.”

We didn’t see much of Bill that weekend. He was constantly going, with other members of Cooperative Coffees, joining in workshops and meetings. However, we did finally get to meet the guys who designed our new web-based ordering system. After many months of phone conversation, Café Campesino finally met two members of the Propelled team, Russ Scully and Erik Wheeler. While Bill entertained the Coop folks Saturday night, Geoffrey, Russ, Erik and I enjoyed a yummy Mexican dinner (and a yummy margarita or two) at the Tijuana Garage in Little Five Points.

On the way back to rejoin Bill and company, I managed to get lost in downtown Atlanta. Not to worry, though, we finally reconnected around 11:00 p.m. only to find that those folks were about to head out for an evening on the town in Little Five Points.

On Sunday, we had an additional person to man the booth, Tripp Pomeroy. I returned to Americus after my early morning shift and enjoyed some serious Sunday evening down time, but it was so much fun. We loved meeting new people, and putting faces with names, such as Grace with Java Republic in Mt. Dora, Florida, and Gen at ChocoLatte Coffee in Atlanta.

Thanks for stopping by, and we can’t wait until next year’s conference!

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