I just got back from a great weekend in Rhode Island, where the best coffee conference I’d never heard of, took place. MANE, or the Mid-Atlantic / Northeast Coffee Conference, has evolved over the years from a barista jam to its current state. The event has grown into a gathering of more than 150 coffee professionals sharing knowledge, taking hands-on classes, and partying with new and old friends in the industry. I heard about MANE for the first time just 6 weeks ago and when I saw the dates aligned with my trip to the US, I did what I could to make it to Providence.
MANE offered 4 “tracks” this year, including Barista, Advanced Barista, Roaster, and Owner & Manager. For only $75, attendees received 2 full days of classes, all the coffee you could brew and drink, food throughout the day, beer at night and a swag bag full of goodies. I’m not really sure how Gerra (of New Harvest) and Troy (of Cosmic Cup) pulled it off, but a huge thanks to them for doing so.
My first day was a crash course on all things milk—starting with a class called Milk Science. We began by cupping various milk samples—heated to different temperatures as well as properly and improperly steamed—before discussing what we liked and didn’t liked about them. From there, Todd Mackey broke down milk into its key components (water, fat, sugar, protein) and what happens to those components when they’re being steamed (adding surface area and splitting disaccharides).
The class wrapped up with Trevor Corlett talking about his experience using non-homogenized milk at MadCap and some of the advantages (sweeter and creamier) and disadvantages (seasonal diet of the cows affecting milk taste) of using it. The class was an enlightening primer on dairy and set the stage for what was next—Latte Art.
After a brief introduction to proper milk steaming techniques and reminding everyone that texture and taste is more important than the aesthetics of a pour, we wasted no time breaking into groups to work on all three.
After the first day of classes, dinner and beers were provided while everyone relaxed and practiced what they learned on the bar stations set-up throughout the space. After a bit of downtime, a warm welcome by Troy was followed by Gwilym Davies keynote, which addressed the importance of staying hungry for knowledge.
After Gwilym set the tone for a great weekend to come, it was time for some more drinks, fun and a little latte art throwdown.
Overall the conference was off to a great start. It was equal parts inspiring, humbling and encouraging. Seeing so many people in one place with a desire to continue pushing their abilities to make great coffee, is something I would have never imagined in the days I worked on bar. Coffee has come such a long way, and yet we still know so little about it. Gwilym made the point repeatedly, saying, “we have to admit that we really don’t know that much.” So we agreed and set off to learn as much as we could.
…to be continued