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Reports From the Road
Day 0 from SCAA 2004 Atlanta
Author: Mark Prince
Posted: April 23, 2004
Article rating: 9.6
feedback: (21) comments | read | write
And away we go!
Posted by Mark Prince, 3:00am Permalink to this blog entry
Show Floor

And here we go folks! Live from the floor reports from a variety of people as we detail this year's SCAA show.

In fact, here's what to expect over the next four days:

- up to the minute news reports on the United States Barista Championship
- show announcements and awards
- quick quips and micro interviews with some luminaries in the biz
- floor note observations and photos
- reports from the training sessions, lectures, keynote, seminars and panel discussions
- new product announcements and cool product news
- more!

So what's going on? Well, CoffeeGeek is at the 2004 Specialty Coffee Association of America's Annual Trade Show and Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. The training and USBC starts on Friday, and the show floor opens on Saturday. Everything wraps up on Monday, when the floor closes at 5pm and the USBC winner is announced. We'll have daily "blog" style updates by a variety of reporters, including Jeanette Chan, Jim Schulman, Mark Prince, Amanda Wilson (I guess I should ask her :)) and possibly one or two others.

Day Minus 1: I arrived on the Wednesday Night / Thursday morning "red eye" from Seattle because I had to go through a full day's "USBC Judges Certification Program" and that turned out to be a mistake. Not the certification program, that was awesome. It was the flight choice. I only slept about an hour on the flight, and I got to my hotel at 6am. I killed an hour or so, then headed for the training for 8am, and I was already toast... and had 8 hours of training to try and stay awake for.

By the time 2pm rolled around, I was positively punchy.

I did pass Certification (I'm a 2004 certified USBC and CBC judge now), which is good... I'm judging today at 1-3pm, and in the semis between 2 and 4pm, which are the two times I requested.

A lot of familiar faces were in the training. John Neate (JJ Bean) and Vince Piccolo (Cafe Artigiano) from Vancouver went through the program and both passed. Folks like Barry Jarrett, Andy Cronin, Jeff Babcock, John Sanders, John Hornall and others were all part of the process.

George Sabatos (damn, I hope I spelled his name right) showed up in the afternoon. If you know George, you know he's a bit of a superstar in the Aussie espresso scene. George is the guy who came up with the "overstuff" tamping method that Paul Bassett used so effectively in last year's World Barista Championship (and won!).

I got to have the ultimate geek moment when not only did George recognize who I was (and called me a celebrity - gulp), but we spent a good forty five minutes discussing the relative merits of filter basket sizes and equipment choices for producing the best shots of espresso. That was so cool.

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Lindsey and George
Lindsey Bolger (Green, back turned), an unidentified judge, and George Sabatos discuss coffee.
At the Judges' Certification, various groups break off for discussions.
Bodum's Booth
How it looks on Thursday.
Mike Ferguson
Getting all the last minute details ironed out.

Once the certification program was over, I was supposed to go have dinner with John Neate and others, but I was so toasted, zonked, dead, punch drunk, that all I did was go back to my hotel room, get caught up on some email (bad news - I can't seem to email out), and I went to bed at 9... got a good 8.5 hours of sleep, and it's up this morning, ready and raring to go. I have a judges' calibration meeting at 8:30 am this morning, then it's coverage of several Friday Intensive programs.

And off I go!

Sitting in a USBC Judges' Calibration Meeting
Posted by Mark Prince, 6:35am Permalink to this blog entry

Sitting in the Judge's Calibration meeting.

The judges' calibration meeting is ongoing, I'm typing this as I sit in it. We're discussing shifts and such. This update is going to come as bullet points. It will give you an idea of what's going on in these kinds of meetings.

  • Brought up the points about poker face, realizing that the competitors are extremely fast.

  • The event is going to be filmed quite a bit, and there's discussion about how the judges should be congnitent of the the camera positions because the films will be used for training at future dates.

  • We talked about the importance of the head judges who will be directing flow of the competition and what the head judge's role is.

  • There is a lot of talk about double shots in a cappuccino, and how to judge. The resulting answers are, for the cappuccino drink, it's supposed to be a single shot for each cappuccino, and the cup should be between 4.5 and 6oz in size.

  • The competitors are not allowed to have alcohol in their drinks, but alcohol can be in the accompanying deserts, etc. I did not know that.

  • There's also discussion that brings up the infamous (but tasty) cayenne pepper episode from last year. Barisiti cannot change the portafilter baskets, or put anything other than coffee in the filters when brewing.

  • I have to say, it's mainly a boring meet, but some very good information was passed around, and a lot of the judges got some good information and were able to ask pertinent questions.
Pit stop break
Posted by Mark Prince, 7:50am Permalink to this blog entry

The show isn't even open yet, and I'm already sweaty and rushed. :) Spent some time walking the floor with Vince from Caffe Artigiano - I have to do a feature story on his shop for this year's Fresh Cup Coffee Almanac, and I was drilling him for some questions about where I'm going with the story.

I dropped in briefly on one of the Friday Intensives - Brewing Diversity, Coffee Styles from around the world. I love that kind of stuff, and I'm heading back in there and will post another update with some pictures very soon. Then it' off to a cupping class, and another update from there.

The show's already busy, and the floor doesn't even open until tomorrow. In the back room from the Barista competition, things are getting tense as Baristi are working hard to cram in a last few minutes' of testing before getting out before the public. Phong Tran and Billy Wilson were manning two warmup machines in the prep room when I was in there. Billy's technique is so intense and in tune, but Phong's technique is polished and almost elegant. It's very cool to see the diversity from both. I have photos, and they'll be going up on the next update - I left my compact flash card reader at the hotel room and have to go back and get it.

As an observation, the Barista competition is really maturing well. I think the crop of current judges is stellar, and the skill level amongst the competitors is extremely high overall. I'm very much looking forward to seeing this year's champions.

Attending seminars
Posted by , 9:40am Permalink to this blog entry

Friday, April 23rd, 2004

I attended a talk called "Global Trends in World Coffee and Tea Consumption", and managed to hear a couple speakers: Joe Simrany and Ramaz Chanturiya.
Unfortunately, I didn't get to hear Maja Wallengren or Dr. Nestor Osorio speak as I had to move on to the next talk.

The talk began with Joe Simrany on the topic of tea. Mr. Simrany pointed out that the progress of tea and its popularity has been following the same trends as coffee but only at a slower pace: specialty tea, upscale & unblended tea, green/oolong/white, flavoured teas, traditional blends, chai & bubble tea, estate teas, and herbal teas. Looking at the list, there is a remarkable similarity of this to coffee.

Ramaz Chanturiya talked about the Russian coffee market, with key trends and prospects. The main point of interest was that 80% of the Russian coffee market is instant coffee, supplied primarily by Singapore and Germany. Up to 95% of Russia's instant coffee is produced outside of Russia.

Coffee to Russia has increased by 175%, although in 2002, market growth has decreased by 6-8%. However, 2003 saw a market expansion of 5%, showing a transition to stable growth. Up to 75% of roast and ground coffee in Russia is produced locally. In the next 3 years, it should increase up to 80-85%.

With the growing interest in specialty coffee in Russia, the SCAE Russian Chapter has conducted two national Barista Championships, and are sending representatives to Trieste.

There was a talk entitled "Coffee and Sustainability - Global Challenges" with Dr. Peter Baker and Annemieke Wijn, that caught my attention, and the attention of an almost packed room. Dr. Baker is the Coffee Projects Coordinator of CABI Commodities, and Annemeike Wijn was from Kraft. Mentions of Global warming, biodiversity, the coffee genome (the fact that most Arabica coffee has very little genetic variability is interesting), technological challenges (coffee is getting too easy to grow) all came up. Another type of coffee plant that is supposed to be more resistant to disease brought up issues of quality. What's the point in growing something that nobody likes to drink? All in all, it was a very interesting talk!

Working the USBC
Posted by Mark Prince, 12:50pm Permalink to this blog entry

Just finished judging in the USBC... I gotta say.

The bar is raised. I watched four competitors, then judged five, and I'm very pleased by the fact that even the worst competitors I've seen today might have been the best a year or two ago in competition - the bar is completely raised.

As a big fan and supporter of the art of the Barista, my heart is very happy right now about this.

Right now, I'm sitting with Duane Sorenson and Angie Lof at the CNN Center, having lunch, and totally talking coffee. Sorenson is the owner of Stumptown Coffee which is arguably the best roaster / cafe setup in the entire Pacific Northwest (yes, even compared to Seattle places).

Duane's very down to earth, and an extremely passionate coffee guy. And Angie... she's the head trainer at JJ Bean, and her passion for the bean... i've talked about it often enough.

Photos coming next!

Starbucks and Sustainability
Posted by , 1:00pm Permalink to this blog entry
Click for larger image
Peter Torrebiarte Speaks
Peter Torrebiarte Speaks on Starbucks and Sustainability Practices
Click for larger image
Standing room only. This has gotta be a popular seminar with loads of information!

It was quite a surprise to see Peter Torrebiarte speak on Starbucks Coffee's Approach to Sustainability. It was a packed room for this particular seminar with standing room only. The main points of his talk focused on direct feedback with the farmers (supplier) with verifiers to monitor farming practices and processing. Coffee Quality is a pre-requisite requirement before applying for the CAFÉ program that Starbucks is running.

Starbucks has some kind of a system that allows for constructive criticism, flexibility for the smaller farmers, and move toward a less subjective model in their effort to to have a more comprehensive system. This feedback and discussion with suppliers would be better to achieve quality for the consumer.

Busy floor
Posted by , 1:20pm Permalink to this blog entry

Well, the floor of the exhibition floor looks incredibly busy. I've been watching the proceedings, and am quite amazed by all the things that are moving around. I managed to take pictures of quite a few things, so hopefully I'll be able to post some of these photos I'm getting.

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Bird's eye view of vendors moving quickly to set up.
Craning for a better view, these workers do so much good work, I certainly have to say I look up to them.
mmmm.... my favourite booth, and they're not open yet! But they are hard at work!
And yet, this man has a lot of power at his fingertips. Good thing he knows not to let it go to his head.
The epitome of Luxury
Posted by Mark Prince, 1:35pm Permalink to this blog entry

BTW, I failed to mention this earlier, but did you know I have the coolest, most luxurious hotel room and facilities I've ever had on a trip, all courtesy of Jim from 1st Line? Jim ponied up rooms for me, for three vendors, and even for our contest winner. He rocks. This a very generous thing he did. I'm in LUX ury! Thanks Jim!

Today's photos
Posted by Mark Prince, 2:00pm Permalink to this blog entry

A bunch of photos from today, raw, just resized to 640 x 480. Enjoy! I'm off to the evening reception next.

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CNN Center
Right next door to my hotel...
This way to exhibitions, champions and more ;)
Alan Frew
I ran into Alan as I was heading in for the morning's Judge Calibration meeting.
Barry Jarrett
Stylin' and profiling, as always ;) (yes, the shorts were de rigueur!)
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Jeff Taylor
A judge captain, Jeff Taylor mugs for the camera
Cindy and Lindsey
Cindy Chang and Lindsey Bolger at the Judges' Calibration.
Phuong Tran
A competitor in the USBC, and winner of the PNW Championships.
Billy Wilson
Billy's practicing in the back before competing.
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Baristi warming up
Baristi are warming up in front area before competition.
Senior Judge John Sanders
The senior judge checks out the final setup before competition starts.
Dismas Smith
Dis is done competiting, he's cleaning up but smiles for the camera
Barista getting ready
A competitor, feeling the pressure as she's about to compete.
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Custom Reg
The custom reg barber tampers ready for the final winners.
Mark Pfaff
Mark cleans and gets a machine ready for the next competitor. He competes tomorrow.
Sandy Hon
Sandy smiles for the camera before competing.
Bronwen Serna
Bronwen rushes by, but has a smile for the camera as she goes.
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Trish Skeie
Trish speaks at a panel / intensive training session on the different coffee cultures of the world
Peter Guiliano
Peter, of Counter Culture coffee, speaks in a Friday Intensive session.
John Neate
One of the sensory judges in the USBC, John Neate listens as a Barista speaks.
Dismas Talks
Dis talks to a camera crew after competing.
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The sensory judges doing their thing.
Billy Wilson
Billy preps for his round.
Sandy Hon
Sandy in the act of tamping as she competes.
Judging Always
As the competitors continue, the judging is constant.
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Phuong Tran Setup
Phuong's setup in the back.
Phuong Setup
More of Phuong's setup.
Barista Setup
Another Barista's setup in the prep room
Yet another Barista setup in the prep room.
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Mo Judging
Judges evaluate a signature drink.
Billy Wilson
Billy taking a requested breather before starting.
Billy Wilson
Billy shakes hands with each judge at the start of his session.
A good first day audience.
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Judges evaluate the espresso.
Warming Up
A barista warms up for her turn at competing.
Billy Wilson
Billy, super intense in his competition mode.
First Prize
Part of what the USBC is all about (but not all of it)

More to come!

Article rating: 9.6
Author: Mark Prince
Posted: April 23, 2004
feedback: (21) comments | read | write
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