Saturday, April 24, 2010

Raising the bar (and eyebrows) at SCAA Anaheim

I've been back from the SCAA Anaheim trade show and conference for 5 days now, and am sorta feeling like I'm getting my feet on the ground again. I think I'm 80% there. That show is just so big and overwhelming in some ways, and over-the-top inspiring and energizing at the same time. I love bumping into the top roasters from around the continent -- Ritual, Thanksgiving, Sisters, Flying Goat, 49th Parallel from the West, new wine/coffee shop owner from Phoenix, Santropol from Montreal, Metropolis, Boston Stoker, MadCap, Alliance World, Intelligentsia, and Alterra from the Midwest.

I also thrive on the proximity to coffee producers and exporters. So many, so close! Up front and personal. Walking to their booths on the trade show, or sitting down to breakfast at the IWCA breakfast is truly a "world in your cup" feeling.

The true inspiration comes from awards like the Sustainability Award that went to Peter Kettler for the "Coffee Lifeline" project. This project brings solar-powered radios to remote coffee farmers in Rwanda and Burundi and is now set to replicate to other African and even Central American countries. Talk about a green (no batteries to buy or dispose of) and appropriate (technology that works in the mountains of Rwanda) technology -- that helps farmers educate farmers with peer-sharing (Millenium Development Goals 3, 7 and 8!)

Another inspiration and great tasting treat was the Ethiopian Cupping Caravan. I and other SCAA participants got to cup 10 Ethiopian coffees. The producers were right there to talk to us. There were delightful Sidamas with big blueberry taste, Harar - Oromias with cherry, chocolate notes, and one from Bele Kara (Yirgacheffe) that was complex and beautiful. Heard names and regions I'd never heard before. This is a terrific project, and hopefully one that will be replicated.

I had my usual mission on the trade show floor of seeing if any roaster was bold enough to bring to this important show -- their best tasting, knock your socks off DECAF coffee (this raises a lot of eyebrows when I ask). Didn't find a one! I did find someone on a similar mission, however! Alex Nathanson of "No Buzz Coffee" and I met just in front of the 49th Parallel booth. It's an idea whose time has come, folks! And -- the roasters and cuppers I met at the Intelligentsia booth seemed genuinely intrigued by the challenge to be the FIRST roaster to bring a great tasting decaf espresso to the SCAA show. We'll check 'em out next time, and see if they'll be able to meet the challenge.

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