April 30, 2013
by Joyce Klassen

Specialty Coffee Association of America held ‘The Event’ this year in Boston. What a show! What an event! We are still reeling from it, two weeks on!

Prior to ‘The Event’ was the two day Symposium, which Kyra Kennedy and I were fortunate enough to attend. On day one, we got to learn about the super critical issue of our times, in coffee – Coffee Leaf Rust – what it is, where it is prevalent and what is being done to deal with it. Truly this is a shocking situation and impacting plants and people at all parts of the chain. Coffea genetics followed, appropriately, as the industry deals with the rust challenge and searches to find solutions. From coffee scientists working all over the world, we got a crash course in coffee varieties, breeding, and biology. Being where we are, at Baratza, on the second to last stop for coffee, before it’s consumed, there was so much fascinating information on what it takes to get the beans into our grinders, that rarely shows up on our radars!

Day two brought talks on the topic of the importance and success of collaboration in facing challenges in Speciality Coffee plus inspirational presentations from innovators within and outside the coffee industry. Ask anyone there about the Mushroom guy – amazing! We enjoyed listening to Keith Gehrke from Able Brewing about how he developed his products and were also lucky enough to have the opportunity to sit with him at lunch and get to hear even more about his journey:) Symposium ended with a video and talk on the changing face of the coffee consumer.

In between all these presentations we had great meet-ups with so many people that we often only get to see once or twice a year! There was a ‘conversation lounge’ hosted by Curtis and the mega cool part, (beyond Brant Curtis, Krista Reddington and Jeff Landy – Team Curtis!) was that it was the FIRST time we got to see our new Forté grinder, live and in action! Curtis paired it with their Gold Cup Brewer and it worked brilliantly, out of the box, serving up delicious coffees for two days. It was a great kick-off for it and our thanks to Curtis for trusting us and showing it!

Katy Goulding, SCAA’s Business Development Manager was one of the delightful face to face meetings we had! Sarah Dooley from La Marzocco, aided by Bennett Cross of Blue Bottle, led a team of Baristas from across the US, serving exceptional coffee to all the attendees. We were spoiled by Sarah’s graciousness and incredible sense of service. All in all – a packed two days!

‘The Event’ happened at the Boston Convention Center from Friday – Sunday, and literally we had people in our booth non-stop for the whole three days. It is our biggest show of the year and each year it gets better! Kyle Anderson and Quinn Anderson were on the booth with Kyra and me. It was beyond amazing to meet old friends, connect with people that we’d previously only met via email or social media and also meet new people. It’s the people, the Specialty Coffee community, that always makes the show so special. Many attendees were already quite familiar with our product range, but there were a lot of people who are setting up new businesses and wanted to learn about all we have to offer and were delighted that we had grinders to meet their customers, wherever they are in their coffee journey!

The highlight for Baratza, was the launch of the Forté grinder, our new commercial grade grinder that is solid, innovative and multi-functioning. It has the ability to grind by time or by weight. In addition to having the grinder at our booth, we had a few working in some high profile spaces – the Satellite Bar at Expo entrance, the Curtis booth, paired with the Gold Cup Brewer, and at the Brew Bar on the La Marzocco booth. The feedback was incredibly positive and the Baristas and Brew Bar owners felt like we really answered their need for a ‘beefier’ grinder to support their brew bars, catering events, wholesale accounts, restaurants and more. It was very encouraging indeed to feel people’s excitement about the grinder and to hear so many requests to actually start buying them! The other group that were super impressed were the SCAA judges as the Forte was voted “Best New Product-Coffee or Tea Preparation and Serving Equipment (Commercial) – SCAA 2013”. We were honored to receive this industry recognition.

Actually, Baratza grinders were visible throughout the show, from fundraisers for Café Femenino Foundation and Coffee Kids, to multiple competition prizes, as well as being in many of our partner’s booths. Check our Facebook page for photos! Facebook – SCAA Albums

We were proud to partner with Kalita USA, La Marzocco, Prima and Marco to provide a very special coffee bar for SCAA Expo attendees, right at the entrance to the Expo. It was a gorgeous set up, designed by Nick Cho and Elise Hogan of Kalita USA and was our first stop every morning for invigorating cups of deliciousness. We are delighted that they used both the Preciso/Esatto combination and the new Forté to support the Kalita manual brew service!

Each day, in our booth we were spoiled by the opportunity to taste more amazing coffees, expertly brewed, and that does not mean by US! Elise Hogan of Kalita USA shared the Kalita brewing method one day, Mark Barany and Andy Kwon brewed up some of their special Kuma Kochere and on the last day Brandon Paul Weaver of Slate brewed up some coffees that he’d used in his Brewers Cup competition. He uses the Esatto/Virtuoso combo in their Airstream cafe right now so shared plenty of stories with other people at the booth about his experiences – thankfully all good – phew!

While we were busy engaging with people in our booth and being on the expo floor, there were competitions going on all day for the Barista Championship , Brewers Cup, and Cup Tasters Challenge. I barely got to the Competition Hall and managed to catch Lem Butler of Counter Culture in the Semi Finals. He’s such a class act to watch and experience. I wish I had more time to soak up the atmosphere of the competitions, but thanks to the great coverage from Sprudge I was able to catch up afterwards on all the excitement of the events. We were delighted to be a National Sponsor of the three events and give grinders to all the 1st, 2nd and 3rd placed in each event. They deserve it for their courage, strength, perseverance, endurance and passion to pull off their performances. We did have a major snafu on the prizes not being on hand in Boston, and apologize to the winners, but we have since dispatched them all out. Mea culpa.

No SCAA happens without some major play time too! We caught up with my fellow countrymen Paul and Drewry from Marco at the Counter Culture Party and managed to escape before some of the excitement that happened later. Another night, we got conned by the NZ and Aussie humor, with resulting belly-aching laughter, and on the last night we had a seafood feast with our Urnex friends. Plenty of very silly moments, deep conversations and great connections to remember!

Without a doubt, the Boston SCAA will also be remembered for the tragic events that happened the day after the show. Our thoughts are with all those affected by the events and we hope for healing in their bodies and hearts.

Our thanks to SCAA organizers, attendees, customers and friends for all the contributions that made SCAA so special.