Taking place this week in Vienna is Europe’s largest specialty coffee event, the SCAE’s World of Coffee. As I board a flight to head that way, I wanted to leave you with a long overdue recap of the SCAA Event, the USA’s largest specialty coffee event, which I attended in Portland this April.
Apart from being in Portland, arguably the coffee capital of the US, this years Event was full of great coffee, good food, old friends, new friends and a look at the direction specialty coffee is heading. I imagine Europe’s World of Coffee to be much of the same with a European twist. So take this as a preview of things to look for and expect to hear about during the week.
I landed a few days early for a prelude of Portland tourism and a chance to take in some of the stellar coffee shops around town, including Barista, Coava, and Heart (among others) before the impending coffee mobs arrived.
The Event itself began with a standing-room-only talk by James Hoffmann, who spoke about the importance of customer service and the need to change customer’s perceptions of what a coffee shop can be. Hoffmann argued for the need of this shift in order to create a market for higher priced coffee with ever more valuable experiences.
Following James’ talk, the morning continued with the much anticipated United States AeroPress Championship—where I filled a last minute vacancy and performed terribly—followed immediately by the World AeroPress Championship. The crowd was dense and the competition fierce, and Belgium held onto the WAC title for the 2nd year in a row.
The trade show floor stretched endlessly in any given direction. Many booths were of little interest, but the ones that caught my eye were usually displaying heaps of toys you’d like to take home with you. Hario may have won the award for the highest number of desirable products in one place.
My favorites were the redesigned syphon prototype, the electric glass kettle and a new 1 liter Buono. The primary focus of their booth, however, seemed to be the new V60 scale & timer unit—finally integrating two important tools into one device. This will certainly free up iPhones everywhere to post more brewing shots on Instagram.
Baratza also showed off their new set of metal burrs developed specifically for maximizing the consistency of filter grind settings on the Vario-W grinders.
Following La Marzocco’s booth, which was staffed with star baristas on lovely machines, serving a rotation of delicious coffees, the most popular place to be was Alpha Dominche, tucked away in a far corner of the showroom floor.
Alpha Dominche, the Salt Lake City based start-up who unveiled their Steampunk prototype just days before the Event kicked off, was busy giving nonstop demos of their futuristic, multi-group syphon machine to curious attendees.
All of the buzz and the beauty surrounding their machine won them a much deserved award for “Best New Product.” (Nice article & interview with them on CoffeeGeek)
One reoccuring trend that showed up in various booths throughout the event was a selection of new high-end home brewers, with a focus on water temperature stability and improved coffee saturation. From the already released Bonavita and Bodum autodrip machines to the new Behmor Brazen, Technivorm seems to finally have some legitimate competition (however the Moccamaster is still the best looking by far).
I also had the pleasure of meeting Dave and Dave, the creators behind the Kickstarter sensation Coffee Joulies, which I cynically previewed before they were even a commercial product. Dave was delightful nonetheless and gave me a complete and honest walk through of the benefits and limitations of the product.
As long as Joulies work as described (in a travel thermos), I can see a use for their intended market—of which I am not a part. Despite my skepticism, Dave gave me a set to take home. If I can discover any other useful functions, apart from a long commute or miserable days in a coffeeless office sipping from a thermos, I’ll be sure to share my thoughts.
One of the mornings, I also took part in a cupping of Robusta coffee, organized by Andrew Hetzel. I’d never tasted Robusta coffee apart from its use in bitter espresso blends, so I took the opportunity to try something new.
Overall, the experience was pretty torturous to my palette, but I was surprised by some of their sweet and intense aromas. Of the six coffees on the table there was one highlight, a Robusta peaberry, which was surprisingly pleasant—until it wasn’t.
Alongside the fully packed trade show hall, the United States Barista Championship and Brewer’s Cup were also taking place. After months of regional competitions, the most talented baristas from around the country were all competing for the chance to represent the US this week in Vienna at the World Barista Championship.
Katie Carguilo (who was excited to say the least) of Counter Culture Coffee won a very close barista competition and is currently competing in Vienna, along with Andy Sprenger of Ceremony, who won the US Brewer’s Cup for the second year in a row.
Of all the things to see at these gatherings, the most valuable part always ends up being the people. With the proliferation of Twitter in the industry, you can finally meet those you’ve been sharing advice and arguing with online throughout the year.
Jason Dominy greeted me with his infamous bear hug and attempted to convert my opinions of the Clever (sorry Jason, still unconvinced), while Keaton Violet kept me entertained and filled with beard envy. Joyce from Baratza was a joy to talk with, along with so many others. The list of people I met is long, but each person played a role in making the event another one to remember.
I’m looking forward to an equally great week of coffee and friends in Vienna. If you couldn’t make it to either event this year, make one of them a part of your 2013 plans—you’ll be glad you did.
All coffee aside, Portland is an absolutely incredible city to visit.
posted by bwj
on 06.13.2012, under Misc.
I want to start the new year by celebrating a coffee company that everyone should be watching in 2011—especially if you missed what they’ve been up to in 2010. Coava Coffee (pronounced “ko-vuh”), is a small company in Portland Oregon that’s already made big news in the coffee world and aren’t slowing down anytime soon.
Matt Higgins began Coava in 2009 and just a year ago, in January 2010, he was joined by best friend Keith Gehrke. In the last year, the duo have opened one of the most beautiful coffee bars I’ve ever seen, had over 25 coffees rated 90+ on Coffee Review, developed a stainless steel Chemex filter called the Kone, followed by its cousin—the Disk— for the AeroPress.
On January 1, Coava leaked photos of the latest gem to emerge from their lab—the Kone Funnel—a full immersion glass brewer that looks like part clever coffee dripper, part homemade beer-bong, and part chemistry lab. This latest creation uses a Kone filter inside of a glass funnel that’s equipped with a stopper. The stopper will allow a controlled release of coffee ranging from 10 seconds to 3 minutes depending on the brew variables. The official launch date is January 18th at the La Marzocco Out of the Box event, so expect a follow-up with more details in the future.
I visited Coava in November and got to experience the passion these guys have for coffee first hand. Though Keith was busy, I met Matt, who treated me to a nice shot of their Costa Rican Helsar and soon began talking more like an engineer than a barista, as he explained a bit about the process behind the Kone.
It was immediately discernible that Matt loved what he’s doing—so much that he’s even begun growing coffee in his basement to learn more about the process and hone his green coffee buying skills. Now that’s dedication.
The simplicity of Coava’s space is complimented by the finesse of the craft that went into building it out. The counter is generous and low, allowing a nice view of their single origin offerings as they’re brewed with a Chemex and Kone. A restored Probat sits just past the end of the counter, offering a public view of the roasting process and seating spreads throughout a large showroom shared with a Bamboo fabrication studio. Old drill presses and prototype furniture double as tables and industrial decoration, making the space feel raw but functional. If I could call any local cafe my own, this would be it.
Check out Coava and keep an eye on them as they continue contributing great things to the coffee industry this year.
UPDATE: As a part of the continuing Year of the Coava coverage I wanted to announce that representatives from Coava Coffee, Sam Purvis and Devin Chapman, have just swept the Northwest Regional Barista Competition and Brewers Cup, respectively. They will both move on to the United States Barista Championship this April in Houston. Congrats on the win! Read an interview with Sam Purvis on Willamette Week.
[photos by Jelani Memory via Coava]
Last week I visited Portland, Oregon to see friends, speak with design students at PSU, and drink as much coffee as I could. I hadn’t been to Portland in 3 years and the coffee landscape had grown quite a bit. With a list of roasters and cafe’s to visit—which grew with each person I met—I explored, tasted, cupped, and enjoyed some of the best PDX has to offer. I also met a lot of the super friendly, super knowledgeable people behind the regions top coffee scene who continue to experiment and push coffee into new territory.
Sadly I forgot my camera, so the only photos I have come from a lowly iPhone. Enjoy.
I spent an entire day visiting 4 Stumptown locations. Above, the Belmont shop had a new, custom La Marzocco Mistral on the bar. Lovely
Right next door to the Belmont shop is the Stumptown Annex. A brew bar with no espresso machine. Just a great selection of beans and a relaxed environment to learn about coffee brewing, buy some beans, or take part in a complimentary cupping (every day at Noon and 2pm). I took part in the first one with a spread of 4 different Colombian origins and for the second, I just hung around to watch the brew demo. The crew at the Annex were great and up for talking about everything from the export issues in Ethiopia, to their favorite AeroPress techniques.
The next day I stopped by one of Portland’s newest roasters, Water Avenue Coffee. It’s a nice clean shop not far from Spirit of 77 (the best sports bar I’ve ever been to). I really loved the custom concrete pour over bar and the blue neon coffee sign. Joe from Reno let me hang out a bit while he closed up and talked about the barista school they run in the back of the shop and brewed up a nice sweet cup of El Salvador for me.
Next up was Coava (koh-va), which isn’t far from Water Avenue, and home of the K-One Kone filter they designed for the Chemex. Also open for less than a year, this shop is absolutely beautiful, my photos don’t do it justice, so be sure to check out the gallery on their website. The entire space is huge with the coffee bar tucked into one corner. A wood shop studio shares the space and there’s a collection of amazing tables on display throughout it. At first I wasn’t sure if I was in a furniture showroom, a workshop, or a cafe and hesitated to sit down.
I had a cup of Costa Rican Helsar brewed up with the Kone. I really enjoy how well the Kone retains the bright flavors and a bit of sediment, but not as much silt as a French press. Matt then pulled me a fantastic shot of their Honduras El Limon while we talked about the Kone. He quickly began to speak more like an engineer than a barista. Keith was busy roasting, so I didn’t have a chance to meet him, but I’m sure they’ll still be there next time I’m in town.
I also stopped into Barista for a shot from Sightglass roasters in SF. I always appreciate cafes that serve a variety of beans. There are too many good roasters out there to stick with one. These are friendly guys worth visiting in a nice shopping district of Portland called the Pearl.
On the morning I left, I met some friends at Crema, a nice cafe and bakery that serves Coava and Stumptown. The barista, Skip, made me a delightful cappuccino with Stumptown’s Hairbender and then brought over a shot of Coava’s El Salvador Santa Sofia to send me off to the airport on a good note.
I know there are a lot of great places I never made it too, but it would take more than 4 days to visit them all. I really wanted to stop by Heart Roasters before I left, but I ran out of time. They just turned a year old and I’ve heard many good things about them. Feel free to share any other cafe’s or roasters in Portland in the comments. I’d love to know about the gems I missed, so I’ll have more reason to go back soon!