(cover photo by Andrew West, Krypto, on Flickr, used under CC licensing)
So CoffeeGeek's got two people (myself included) heading to Boston this week to cover the 25th Annual SCAA Event and Symposium. It's been ten long years since the SCAA was last in Boston, when it hosted it's first WBC, first USBC, and was held in a smaller convention centre and had to be split across two floors. That last show in Boston had several highlights for me personally: It was the first time I met Geoff Watts from Intelligentsia. It was the first time I met George Howell, the father of specialty coffee on the east coast. And it was the first and only time I met Dr. Ernesto Illy, which is one of my most cherished moments in coffee.
This time around, so much is going to be going on at The Event that in many ways, it dwarfs the 2003 SCAA show. We've worked out our coverage schedule, which includes just a few seminars of note (including Coffee in Japan, a few brew methods seminars, and one about the leaf rust problem). Most of our attention this year will be focused on things you want as a CoffeeGeek reader, based on previous surveys and polls we've conducted.
The Trade Show Floor
A lot of our attention this year will be focused on highlights from the trade show floor, covering any and all items that are of most interest to the CoffeeGeek audience. This includes new machine technologies, coffees, ethics in coffee, some farmer coverage, and anything to do with culinary techniques and methods for quality coffee. There's some 373 exhibitors scheduled for the show this year (this is a huge number), and we plan on focusing on about two dozen of them.
Brewing and Grinding
On the trade show floor, we hope to visit the following companies to see what they have going on for 2013 for both commercial and consumer products:
Last year's most popular booth, we fully expect La Marzocco to be jam-packed again this year. La Marzocco is introducing their newest variant on the Linea espresso machine, the Linea PB model. This booth will be packed with willing baristas, pulling shots all day long.
Last year's SCAA Best New Product, we'll be very curious to see how a year's worth of development has refined this machine. We expect to see something new and much easier for the working barista to use.
Baratza is introducing two new products this year - a commercial sized hopper that can be retrofitted on most of their machines, and a new grinder, called the Forte, which will retail around $1,000 and be for commercial use.
Dalla Corte USA
These are technological beasts of machines, but haven't gained much traction yet in the US or Canada. Dalla Corte also has high end consumer machines, and we hope to see some of the products this year, and possibly pull a few shots on them.
Rancilio rarely uses these trade shows to showcase consumer products and they haven't really introduced a new consumer product in ages (just refinements on the Silvia); we don't know if anything is in the works for this year. Expect to see more XCelsius commercial machines in full effect once again.
For the first time, Breville is hosting a booth at the SCAA and this has me very excited, as they have a brand new machine they will be introducing, and they'll be expanding their lineup of consumer espresso machines, and other brewers this year.
Bonavita has a booth this year, but I'm not entirely sure if it will actually be at the show, since the company had a huge shakeup in its US distribution in December. Since Espresso Supply (the new distributor) also has a booth, we'll have to see.
I hope the booth at Bodum is more populated this year - we didn't get a chance to get product demos last year when they rollled out a new design for an espresso machine. We need to find out more! I am hoping Bodum also does something new in the siphon department, but this is only a guess.
At the show this year, Espro will be demonstrating their 1l press pot, but I also think they will have full prototypes of their current Kickstarter project for the medium sized press pot. Espro is always working on new products so there may be some surprises.
These folks, who had a successful kickstarter campaign for their aeropress filter, also have a booth this year for the first time. I've had conversations with them in the past and know they're always on the lookout for some new things, so I expect to see or hear about a new project at The Event.
These are the Yama importers in the US and Canada and I hope to see a few new prototype items in the booth this year. I'll report about the siphons and other items they are importing.
Sungarden Tea - Hario
This is Hario's only presence at The Event this year, and my coverage of their wares last year was not very good - I will try to be more thorough this year. I'll ask them about the new scale and some widespread issues it has had, and about new products.
The Hottop home roaster folks have a booth again this year and though I haven't heard about any new products, there's always the chance. They make what is arguably the best home roaster on the market.
Speaking of home roasters, We missed Behmor's booth last year and that omission will be definitely corrected in Boston - I want a full demonstration of Behmor's home coffee brewer as well, something I have not yet had a chance to see or try.
Mahlkonig is pretty much the undisputed leader in all things grinder commercial, and they own several brands now, including Anfim. They have a quasi-home grinder as well that we'll get a closer look at.
The USBC and WBC main machine sponsor always has a big presence at the SCAA, but in past year hasn't garnered the buzz factor around their booth that La Marzocco has. Still, they have a great machine in the Aurellia II, and beautiful Victoria Arduino branded machines, as well as a few glitzy home machines - we'll definitely be stopping by.
I'm most curious about Prima's booth and what they plan to show. They're an up and coming consumer and commercial vendor and they're importing more and more unique products, like the Bayreuth brewer amongst other things.
There's many more interesting booths this year for the CoffeeGeeker, and we hope to get reports from all of them. They include Aerobie, Visions Espresso, La Spaziale, KeepCup, Synesso, Slayer (hi Jason!), The Metal Ware Corp (home roasters), Zorjirushi, Espresso Parts, Espresso Supply, Bunn-o-Matic, and even Melitta has a booth this year.
Other Show Floor Booths of Note
Besides machines and technology, the show floor at The SCAA Event has many other booths populated by groups, organizations and businesses that readers of CoffeeGeek might find interesting.
Once again this year we'll be doing a small focus on coffee ethics, and visiting the Coffee Kids and Rainforest Alliance Coffee booths to pick up some information and find out more about these organizations' 2013 plans. There's also the Grounds for Health booth that we hope to get some information on. And the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center has a booth which is of great interest to some of our readers so we will have coverage. We're also on the prowl for other Ethics in Coffee booths and hope to find a surprise or two.
There's a decent number of coffee related magazines in the world - most of them intended for the commercial market - and many of them are at the show this year. This includes Fresh Cup Magazine, one of the oldest; Barista Magazine, Coffee and Cocoa International, Roast Magazine, Coffee Trend Magazine, Specialty Coffee Retailer, and the Tea and Coffee Trade Journal. Imbibe Magazine has made previous shows but will not have a booth this year.
There's not many roaster retailers that we can find on the show floor listings this year. Counter Culture has a booth and a good presence (they're also hosting a party), but we're surprised to see that George Howell Roasting does not have a booth. In past years, we've seen some great roasters like Intelligentsia, 49th Parallel, Zoka, Stumptown, Espresso Vivace, and others with booths on The Event show floor, but this year, pickings are sparse for really high end quality roaster retailers.
There's even more booths of interest at the show that we know of, and I'm sure there's even more we'll discover. Ancap has a booth this year again and if past years are of any indication, they should have a pretty cool display of great porcelain cup designs. Cafe Imports is a green coffee importer, but one of the highest quality coffee ones in the US right now, and their booth should be a good visit. We plan on stopping by the Coffee Quality Institute to find out more about this company's mission and how they will progress in 2013 and beyond. For the first time, Le Nez du Cafe (a great training tool for evaluating coffee) will have a booth and it should be a very educational and informative booth to visit.
The Various Competitions
The SCAA Event has so many competitions, contests, championships and such going on, you'd almost think there wasn't a trade show or seminars. This year it's just insane how many events of a competitive nature there are, but at CoffeeGeek, like last year, we've decided that we won't be covering any of these events first hand, because there are a few other websites dedicated to this kind of coverage.
Here is an overview of some of the competitions and contests going on this year.
The United States Barista Championship
Now in its 10th year (the first year it was held was in Boston in 2003!), just a mega, mega mega star making event focused on the barista as a knowledgable showperson. I think it lasts four days this year.
The USBC Brewers' Cup
A relatively new competition that challenges baristas in a non-espresso brewing competition. The structure is interesting - the first round is just brew only, and Q-Graders are the judges. The finals round is presentation and brewing (tasting).
US Cup Tasters' Championship
This is a triangle taste competition - the competitors get several groups of 3 cups of coffee, and they have to figure out which one of the three in each group is not like the other. It is both a speed competition and a taste refinement competition.
Roasters' Choice Competition
From the SCAA: The annual Roasters Choice Competition is held in conjunction with the SCAA Event and is designed to highlight the art and craft of coffee roasting. To compete in the challenge, members of the Roasters Guild must submit a roasted coffee. The coffees are vetted and the top 10 coffees are selected in advance of The Event. The coffees are then brewed and presented to exposition attendees to judge in a blind tasting.
Other Competitions etc
There are several latte art throwdowns going on, both informal and slightly more formal, some at the big parties, some at the Convention Hall. The SCAA also organizes a variety of "best of show" contests or competitions which you'll see notice of all over the show floor.
A few competitions are missing this year however. As far as we can tell, there's no Aeropress Championship going on, and the Roasters' Guild has suspended its Coffee of the Year competition for this year, promising that it will be back at SCAA 2014 in Seattle.
The 2003 Boston SCAA show was one of our sentimental favourites (our show reports can be found here for our preshow report, Day 1, Day 2, and the final day), and we hope Bean Town lives up this and much more. The business and practice of specialty coffee has evolved quite a bit in 10 years, and espresso shots we thought were ineffable in 2003 are shots we'd probably dump out today to pull another, better one. Technology has moved forward quite a bit too; in 2003 PID was basically only on the drawing board for commercial machines, and inside a few Rancilio Silvias of home espresso enthusiasts. One thing that hasn't improved that much (outside of innovations Baratza has done for the home market) is grinders - a grinder in 2003 is pretty much what we have in 2012 in terms of grind quality, dosing, waste, etc etc.
There's many social events going on at this year's show as well, with at least two or three big parties planned each night. Some are geared to target markets - some for baristas; some for farmers, importers, roasters, some for the older industry folks, and some for everyone. We'll definitely be attending a few of those, since they're often the most fun part of the Event each year.