SCAA 2015: The Post-Show Report
Every year, the SCAA Expo (or The Event) brings together thousands of coffee professionals and enthusiasts from around the globe together for one of the single largest coffee industry events in the world. And every year we attend, we get caught in the rush that surrounds setting up a trade show booth, hanging out with baristas and customers, checking out all the cool new coffee gear, saying hello to old friends and meeting plenty of new ones, then packing it all up and heading home after a few short days.
This year, we also had the additional pleasure of having the World Barista Championship being hosted in Seattle at the same time, so we were a room away from some of the most talented baristas in the world the whole weekend. Needless to say, it was a lot for us to take in, and we had a blast as usual. If you weren't able to attend, we've got a whole bunch of photos and info below to recap our show experience. Take a look, and hopefully we'll catch you next year in Atlanta!
We've shared a few images here and there before about our SCAA prep, but watching all the booths take shape on the show floor really is something to behold. What begins as an empty, divided room with concrete floors winds up being full of colors, textures, branding, and all kinds of equipment. Here's a little look at our booth's transformation:
Baristas and Buzz at our Booth
This year, we had our largest booth ever at 300 square feet, which we shared with our friends at Ancap USA. To make the best use of that space, we packed in a two station manual brew bar, as well as an espresso bar featuring a single group Slayer and a K30 Air. All weekend, we were serving delicious coffees at both stations, and we were lucky to be joined by a roster of talented baristas who came to represent their companies.
We also partnered up with Acaia to make both our booths even more of a hit. We got a few Pearl scales in exchange for some brewing equipment, and we also got to play with our new favorite piece of brewing equipment: the Lunar espresso scale. This little guy has already gotten a lot of praise, and for good reason! It's an exceptionally solid scale, with a quick response time, a built-in automatic shot timer, waterproof aluminum construction, and a built-in battery that we didn't even have to think about charging all weekend long. It looked rather dashing on our Slayer's drip tray, and we can't wait for these little guys to get released.
Also, a big shout-out and a huge congrats to our friends at Slayer. The new single group machine just won People's Choice for Best New Product in the Commercial category, and we're super proud to be carrying such delightful machines.
Seattle is, of course, a beautiful city, and it would be a shame if we didn't get out a bit to see what it had to offer. Some of our favorite experiences of the weekend weren't far away at all - we got to geek out with the (James Beard Award-winning) culinary geniuses over at ChefSteps one afternoon, and we also trekked up the hill to see the new, very unique Starbucks Reserve Roastery.
At ChefSteps, we attended an open house they were throwing for their coffee-minded fans who were visiting Seattle. James Hoffmann and Ben Kaminsky were there chatting with the team and attendees, both having been featured in ChefSteps' most recent (excellent) class on coffee. At one point, James put a shot of espresso into a chamber vacuum, a la Canadian Barista Champion Ben Put, just to test out the effects on the coffee. It was interesting, with a notable shift in the flavor balance after being subjected to the vacuum, but the shot actually suffered for it. Whatever Ben was doing on stage had to be different, and much better than our results. Still, it was absolutely the right environment for something like that, amongst food and coffee nerds and all the right gear to experiment with.
We also got to try out a cold brew coffee cocktail made with rye, bitters, and smoked cinnamon, as well as ChefSteps' own unique creation they call Dark Matter. Dark Matter is basically dark chocolate, but made with coffee beans instead of cacao. It's remarkable stuff too: it looks and acts like chocolate, you can even temper and mold it, but it tastes distinctly like a sort of sweetened coffee bean puree. They've got the recipe up online, but you'll need access to a chocolate concher (a.k.a. melanger) in order to grind and refine the Dark Matter.
The Starbucks Reserve Roastery is quite the space. We're not typically known for hanging out at Starbucks, but we actually visited the roastery a couple time during our stay in Seattle. It's a gorgeous, lofty, open space with wood and copper accents galore, a wide variety of equipment you wouldn't normally find in a conventional Starbucks, and a whole new experience that seems to be far more focused on the coffee and food. You really have to visit to get a sense of how different it is from the normal production-line-style Starbucks cafes, and though the coffee still has some room for improvement, it was definitely worth dropping in.
The World Barista Championship
The whole Washington State Convention Center was buzzing with anticipation and excitement over the 2015 WBC. It was a huge year for the competition, with some very unique approaches and techniques finding their way on stage. We saw everything from sous vide coffee beans to the previously mentioned vacuum-degassed espresso, but in the end, Australian Sasa Sestic's routine came out on top, making him the new World Barista Champion. Charles Babinski, the current US Champion, performed excellently, and made it to second place in the world. With all the hard work and passion he's poured into his routines over the years, it was fantastic to see him rise so high in the world ranks. All six of the finalists had amazing, engaging routines, and we highly suggest checking out the archived videos on the World Coffee Events Livestream account.
If you were attending the Event, you may have also noticed us running around with video and sound gear, setting up for interviews, and filming the WBC in action. While we haven't said much about it up until now, we're pleased to announce that we will be releasing a short documentary very soon, covering the World Barista Championship and exploring just what it means to the coffee industries of the world. We were able to sit down for interviews with some really amazing people, and we can't wait to show you what we've been working on. Stay tuned!
Stopping by Slayer
We capped off the weekend with a quick trip to our friends at Slayer Espresso. We took some time to hang out, pull some shots, and shoot a quick video of the single group for our listing (which will be up soon!). We took a peek at their assembly space before heading out, and snapped a sweet panorama of a whole lot of espresso machine guts!
To finish up, we owe a big hearty thanks to everybody who helped make our SCAA experience so excellent: Greenway Coffee Co, Quills Coffee, Spyhouse Coffee Roasting Co, Chromatic Coffee Co., Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters, Ritual Coffee Roasters, Tony's Coffee, Sunergos Coffee, La Colombe Coffee Roasters, Slayer Espresso, Mahlkonig USA, and Acaia. Y'all are just the best!