Last week thousands of coffee lovers from around the world flooded Seattle’s Washington State Convention Center, making the pilgrimage to the nation’s coffee capital. The Global Specialty Coffee Expo, hosted by the nearly 30-year-old, industry nonprofit Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), gave coffee enthusiasts and experts the chance to learn about new industry trends and standards, and meet and mingle with other bean-crazed folk. Held April 20-23 this year, Seattle has hosted this annual trade event on and off since 1992.
Huge crowds filled the halls of the convention center to hear lectures about industry innovations and to learn about new coffee farming and processing techniques. Exhibition Hall overflowed with stalls of global products and exhibitors promoting almost everything coffee, tea or beer related. Programs like Funcafe (the Guatemalan coffee sector's nonprofit for human development of the rural population) offered learning opportunities for attendees and consumers to help create a more sustainable industry for Guatemalan coffee farmers. There was even a performance by traditional Maasai dancers from Kenya, the featured coffee-producing region for this year's event.
Trends that have steamrolled into coffee culture were highlighted in bold this year. If you’re tired of ordering your usual caramel latte, jump on the nitro cold brew train (cold brew infused with nitrogen) or the bourbon barrel aged coffee express. And the coffee beers flowed at a section called Uppers & Downers, dedicated to coffee beer where you could try award winning beers like the Gusto Cream Coffee Ale (a cream ale with medium roast beans from Caffe Umbria) by Georgetown Brewing Company. Another big attraction was the Roasters Village, letting one dive head first into coffee samples.
The culminating highlight, of course, was the showdown that is the U.S. Coffee Championships, a four-part competition consisting of the Barista Championship, Brewers Cup, Roasters Championship and Cup Tasters Championship on the sixth floor. A large crowd was ever-present; judged on espresso, a milk portion and a signature beverage, Seattle’s Chelsey Walker-Watson of Slate Coffee Roasters placed second in the Brewers Cup, the competition component that highlights the art of manual brewing.
The Barista Championship consisted of 36 contestants who fought their way through the qualifiers, and the winner Kyle Ramage of Durham, North Carolina will represent the U.S. at the World Championships taking place in South Korea later this year. Washington State had three contenders who made it to the championship round: Maxwell Mooney of Narrative Coffee in Everett, Sam Schroeder of Olympia Coffee Roasting Company in Olympia and Seattle’s Brandon Paul Weaver of Foreigner.
Some of the most unique products we discovered this year were:
Bonaverde Berlin: A roast/grind/brew machine that fits on your kitchen counter, allowing you to purchase green beans direct from the farmer through an app. The aim is to bring closer coffee connections for consumers that also offer sustainability for coffee farmers.
Loca Ceramic Coffee Filter: Easy to travel and to clean, the ceramic filter is composed of countless micro-pores allowing coffee to be filtered cleanly. This filter is a great way to reduce waste!
Modbar: A sister company of the famous coffee equipment company, La Marzocco (the Italian company, famous for its gleaming espresso machines, with a main hub in Seattle), Modbar pioneers what's called "undercounter brewing equipment." As most espresso machines are at eye-level or on-the-coutner, the set up allows a closer connection between baristas and customers for a more complete coffee experience. For an idea, check out La Marzocco’s café in the KEXP gathering space, with a rotating roaster each month.
Franck’s Ultra Coffee (Parana, Brazil): Franck’s Ultra Coffee has discovered different ways to bring out the sweet notes of their bourbon barrel-aged coffee.
notNeutral: This award-winning product design studio offers popular coffeeware that explores the intersection where coffee and design meet. The product range features a selection of fine porcelain coffee cups and mugs that fit comfortably for the hand, and can be seen (and purchased) at the hippest coffee shops.
Specialty Turkish Coffee: Alternative brew methods are all the rage, and we loved the elegant set up of these hand-hammered, copper Turkish pots. The unique design allows for a more even extraction compared to other traditional Turkish coffee pots. The pots are made in Instanbul and the handles have been designed for ease of pouring and balance.