Scenes from SCAA

by JulieCraves on April 25, 2010

Every so often there needs to be a break from the serious and educational for something a little more fun and personal. Here are some photos from the recent Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) event.

First off, we had to stop and visit our friend Kyle, at the Coffee Kids booth. This is an awesome charity, and Kyle is awesome as well. In fact, this photo has a backstory. Check it out.

Andy Sprenger is the roaster at Caffe Pronto in Annapolis, MD. Andy is a birder and former field biologist, and we’ve been in touch for years now. Yet, we’d never met. He tracked us down when he recognized the slogan on my husband’s Rouge River Bird Observatory t-shirt! Julie: “A light-roast Central is best before a spring bird walk.” Andy: “No way. A blend with some Peru boosts your flycatcher ID skills.” [Stand off.]

Andy competed in the U.S. Cup Tasters Championship, where he came in third place (second last year). This is a fast, fun competition where people have to pick the odd coffee out of eight flights of three cups. We found it more enjoyable to watch than the U.S. Barista Championship, which is much slower and more serious.

I’m in the odd position of not being in the coffee industry, but counting among my coffee friends some of the VIPs of coffee. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from Counter Culture Coffee’s sustainability and producer relations manager Kim Elena Bullock, Counter Culture director of coffee and co-owner Peter Giuliano and Intelligentsia’s VP of coffee and green coffee buyer Geoff Watts. They’ve been incredibly generous with their knowledge, and I’m very grateful!

If only George Howell of Terroir Coffee had been in the previous photo. Another VIP of specialty coffee who has been thoroughly patient and kind in answering my questions. I always enjoy catching up with him at these events.

Meeting producers is a highlight of SCAA events. This is Sandra and Israel Gonzalez of Sandra Farms in Puerto Rico. They are the in-laws of one of my University colleagues and a supplier to Michigan roaster Rowster Coffee, so I have long wanted to meet them. What an incredibly charming couple! You’ll be hearing more about them and Sandra Farms in the future, because I know we will visit the farm when we go to Puerto Rico within the next couple of years.

Of course, we have to stop by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center booth and say hi to our friend Dr./Mr. Robert/Bob Rice (inside joke), who runs the Bird-Friendly certification program. Aside from Andy Sprenger, there aren’t too many people at these events with whom we can talk coffee AND birds.

We were invited to a cupping of some Utz Certified Latin American coffees…

…and we got to spend more time talking with folks from Utz (Graham Mitchell here) about their certification. They have modified their standards since I last wrote about them, and I now have a better understanding of their goals and achievements. I’ll be writing more about them in future posts.

And we also spent time with the good folks from Rainforest Alliance, like Petra Tanos, who has been great about getting me information. RA rolled out an excellent implementation guide for Latin American coffee farmers, which I’ll be writing about, and told me about a couple of other upcoming initiatives that I am excited about — in spite of what the expression on my face might suggest. Believe it or not, there is a worse photo of me from this conversation!

We spent some time with folks from S&D Coffee. S&D supplies some McDonald’s and other restaurants and retailers, in addition to have several of their own coffee lines. I was impressed with their concern with sustainably-grown coffee, as evidenced by my conversation with two representatives from the importer Sustainable Harvest, who were at the S&D booth making deals. I am learning more about the import/export side of specialty coffee, as well as about the larger roasters and suppliers. Expect more on these topics as I incorporate this knowledge into my posts.

The foot soldiers of the specialty coffee industry are the roasters. Here I am talking trash (at the garbage bin next to the Barista Guild brew bar) with Chattanooga’s finest roaster, Bryan Dyer. Bryan is one of the funniest and sweetest coffee guys we know. We’ve met and befriended so many excellent people at SCAA events that we no longer wander around like aimless outsiders, but now have a full social schedule!

Aside from hob-nobbing, we attended several lectures every day on sustainable coffee issues, tasted a lot of great coffee, watched talented baristas do their thing, pondered many coffee-related products, and generally had a good time. I was invited to be on a panel on eco-certifications next year in Houston, and I hope we will be able to work it into our schedules. There’s this little conflict with spring bird migration and my day job…

Revised on November 25, 2020

Posted in Coffee news and miscellany

hao April 27, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Hi! Thank you for offering an alternative view to the trade show. Many coffee people I know often neglect the sustainability issues that goes on at coffee origin, and instead focus on the barista craft (not that it is not important, maybe just a bit too much, sometimes). It certainly keeps me in check. I work at Starbucks in Singapore, and if it interests you (or maybe you know already), there is a Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve over here that acts as a sanctuary for migratory birds. There is so much more about coffee origin that I have learnt ever since I started reading here. Thank you!

Julie April 27, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Thank you, Hao!

Patti May 3, 2010 at 9:57 am

Can you please include a future article about where to find your coffee since some people have never been to the Smithsonian?

Julie May 3, 2010 at 10:25 am

Patti, I assume you mean Bird-Friendly coffee certified by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. I have a post listing sources that carry this coffee, and there is a list of recommended coffee roasters at the bottom of every page that carry sustainably-grown coffee. Here is how I came up with that list. For more background information, please take a look at the site's user guide.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: