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January | February 2018
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What will continue to drive momentum behind specialty coffee?
Certainly, the large associations and large, national and multinational events will continue to play a role; however, there is a rising movement of events on a much smaller scale that are fueling growth as well. These events focus on a single city or region and provide education and networking opportunities for roasters, retailers and, importantly, consumers.
Roasting events from Minneroasta in Minneapolis to Cascadia Cup in Portland, Oregon, are bringing roasters together to share experiences covering all aspects of the business. Conversations veer from the uber-technical particulars of cupping triangulation and bean temperature sensing to the only slightly less uber-technical challenges of staff training and sales growth versus production capacity.
As important as honing the craft, attending these events lends a certain feeling of camaraderie that can be lost in the day in, day out grind of production roasting. As these events are smaller in scale and less intimidating to less experienced roasters, ideas flow freely and are more relevant to the particular challenges of the city or region. This free exchange of ideas between roasters serving a common community will improve quality as perceived by the local consumer and, similar to the craft beer movement, continue to generate regional pride that will benefit local roasters.
Driving growth from the other direction are an increasing number of events focused on the consumer. Events such as the Athens (Greece) Coffee Festival, the Charleston (South Carolina) Cup, the Cincinnati (Ohio) Coffee Festival and CoffeeCon (held in multiple cities) draw dedicated coffee-consuming nerds as well as curious coffee neophytes. Working in the industry, we tend to lose sight of the fact that there are a large number of people who have never truly had specialty coffee and a large number of people who have only a passing understanding of why they enjoy specialty coffee.
This column is not intended to encourage you to travel the country, checking off events like national park visits. My intent is to challenge you to attend, participate, sponsor or even start an event in your own town, state or region. You will be a better roaster for connecting with both your roasting peers and your customers.