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Seattle’s show

From the August 2018 issue.

Relive the highlights of the 30th Specialty Coffee Expo and see why visitors from across the globe make the annual pilgrimage to the Emerald City.

Each year, Seattle lures thousands of visitors to its thriving metropolis and urban wonderland. Some use it as the gateway to Mount Rainier and the snow-capped Olympic Mountains, and others for its close proximity to the Boeing factory and tech hub containing Amazon and Microsoft headquarters. In April however, most visitors come for one reason – the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) Expo.

This year, thousands of coffee professionals made the pilgrimage to Seattle for the 30th expo edition from 19 to 22 April. Before the formal cutting of the ribbon with giant scissors to official open the event, a large crowd gathered in the foyer of the Washington State Convention Centre, representing every segment of the supply chain, even an actor representing Juan Valdez, the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation unofficial ambassador.

Portrait Country
Each year the SCA shines the spotlight on an origin country exhibiting at the show, and this year, it was all about China. In a press conference, Shu Yang, the General Manager of the Yunnan International Coffee Exchange (YCE) said under YCE’s leadership, its goal is to increase the popularity of Chinese coffee in the international market.

“The Chinese coffee industry is in the midst of a transformation. Once an afterthought in the global coffee landscape, China is now a burgeoning coffee origin, and is poised to play an important role in the green coffee sector in the years to come,” Shu said.

The coffee planting area in Yunnan Province is 120,000 hectares, and production is about 139,000 tonnes (2.31 million bags), which accounts for more than 95 per cent of the country’s total growing area and total production.

While China had one of the largest stands at the show, there was also impressive representation from origin countries including Brazil, Burundi, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Uganda.

Tech time
Nothing compares to the colossal release of technology at the biannual Host Milan in Italy, but in the off-season, the SCA expo delivered some notable new additions. The La Marzocco Leva and Rancilio Specialty machines made their US debut, but in terms of global launches, it was the Acaia, minature Cinco scale, Modbar AV, Slayer EP, and Synesso 200 espresso machines had Instagram stories reeling.

Events
After dark, Seattle was abuzz with industry events, including the Opening Night party at Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture, Slayer’s Studio Launch event, Fairtrade’s Latino party, La Marzocco’s mansion celebration, the US Barista Guild After Party, not to mention countless smackdowns.

The annual International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) breakfast was one of the most insightful and empowering events on the events calendar.

Celebrating its 15th year, more than 400 attendees and 22 chapters supported the breakfast fundraiser and had the opportunity to hear from leaders within the IWCA network about their work, including China’s emerging coffee market, partnerships in El Salvador that create market access, and strengthening industry relations in Rwanda.

Centre stage
The final day of the SCA expo was all about the US Coffee Championships. Large crowds gathered to watch the next wave of talented baristas and see independent Seattle barista Cole McBride named the 2018 US Barista Champion. Cole will compete in the World Barista Championship in Amsterdam from 20 to 23 June. Joining him was the 2018 US Brewers Cup Champion Becca Woodard of George Howell Coffee, 2018 US Roasters Champion Ian Picco of Topeca Coffee Roasters, and 2018 US Cup Taster’s Champion Ken Selby of Visions Espresso.

Award winners
Each year the SCA expo evaluates the best booths, pop-cup cafés, and products and declares a winner in 10 different product categories, judged on quality and value to the industry. Coffunity, a smartphone app that provides instant information and reviews for coffee consumers around the world, won both the Best New Product (Technology) Award and the Best of Show.

“We believe that by using Coffunity, consumers will discover specialty coffee more easily and ultimately help everyone drink better coffee,” says Federico Bolanos, Co-Founder and CEO.  “We are honoured to be award winners.”

Addition new product winners included Ground Control Cyclops, the Barista Touch by Breville, the Soma Brew Bottle, and the Precision Series by Detpak.

Farewell Seattle
The coffee culture in Seattle is vibrant and diverse. An extensive list of café recommendations could easily turn into a dayslong café crawl, including the original Starbucks store at Pike Place, the gigantic Starbucks Reserve in Capitol Hill, and visits to the La Marzocco Café at Kexp, Storeyville, Roy Street, Espresso Vivace, Heart Coffee, and Seattle Coffee Works.

Next year, the Specialty Coffee Expo will move across the US to Boston, Massachusetts, on the East Coast, from 11 to 14 April. Those keen should think about their accommodation now, with the event coinciding with America’s popular Spring Break and the Boston Marathon.

Regardless of where the event calls home in future years, it will always remain one of the best stages to celebrate the world’s coffee community.

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