SCA Expo 2017 Preview

Despite the last couple of months of prep for this week, it’s still been down to the wire for Seattle. I’m heading to SCA Expo and am quite excited to see my other 12,000 best friends in coffee. Okay, I lied, I’m super introverted and will be just as excited to make 20 new friends.

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Boss Ladies of Coffee: Elizabeth Chai

I met Elizabeth Chai in real life last year in Kansas City (the qualifying event). But I first knew of her when I learned she was doing a big camper coffee crawl across the US from Atlanta to Portland, where she is based now. Liz is a “coffee + design” graphic designer, illustrator, and photographer. We also have shared interests in donuts, dessert, and craft sodas. If you run into her at a coffee event, she’ll likely be dressed up in a colorful vintage fabric dress with a camera in hand.

In the last year, we’ve been fortunate to run into each other often enough that I could set up a short photo session and interview. It’s not often that I’m able to photograph and interview someone else who does similar work as me. I think highlighting other fellow freelancers in coffee can help others realize that there are other careers in coffee that may be outside the “norm.”

On a side note, while we do have some similar interests, I hope this interview also highlights how we are not the same person (please stop mixing us up at events).

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Boss Ladies of Coffee: Bethany Hargrove

Like many of my real-life coffee friends, I first met Bethany on social media. Her sassy, brutally honest tweets were a refreshing escape from the carefully curated streams many of us (myself included) have adopted.

I met Bethany in real life this year at USCC sectionals in Kansas City. She qualified for nationals & I was fortunate enough to run into her in Atlanta. I took a quick snap and sent over some interview questions.

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In Review: SCAA Expo 2016

Another Expo over with and I’m only just now feeling back to my regular self.

Collaboration appeared to be the main theme for me this week. Over and over again, I found myself collaborating with others or finding inspiration through other collaborations. I’ll give you a couple of examples:

  • The Baratza Sette 270W grinder is a collaborative effort between Baratza, Etzinger burrs & Acaia. It won Best New Product!
  • Emily McIntyre and I have been working on our lecture for months now & it was a huge success!

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Boss Ladies of Coffee: Reneé Blanchard

On her favorite coffee memory, Reneé described a picturesque scene in Vienna. “My favorite places were seating in incredibly old cafes in Vienna watching the servers run back and forth, sipping on rich lattes with the fullest of fat milk and sampling dark chocolate tarts. It just transforms you. It makes you part of that cultural history of great art and music.”

This magical scene, of culture and community, is one she hopes to invoke in her own cafe.

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New Orleans has a long history of cafe culture – one that I confess I’m not entirely familiar with. Despite this, I find a sense of community and acceptance here. Perhaps it’s the history. Perhaps it’s the decaying buildings. Or perhaps it’s the passion of coffee people like Renee who are driving change in the city.

“We lounge here in New Orleans in an expert manner,” Reneé tells me.

This is true. In my six days there, I felt like I had the richest of foods paired with the least amount of physical exertion.

“We are about the experience, not just the taste, which has led us on a long trajectory to find specialty coffee. It makes it not just a science of the best dialed in coffees, but a real experience of tasting and enjoying.” A stroll in New Orleans will bring you to street-side brass bands and colorful facades. There is no doubt that the environment influenced the food culture.

Beau (full name: Beausoleil Broussard) keeps a close eye on the cafe.

Beau (full name: Beausoleil Broussard) keeps a close eye on the cafe.

It takes a certain skill & character set to own a business, let alone a service-oriented one. What happens when work lends itself to repetition and exhaustion?

Reneé names two sources of inspiration that keep her going:

  1. Regulars. “When a customer walks in not knowing anything about us or me them, and them leaving with a little more understanding of our shop and me hearing a little piece about their lives. I love hearing people’s stories.”
  2. Palate development. “I love challenging myself with other foods and drinks, then bringing that knowledge back to the shop when I’m dialing in. It’s surprisingly, extremely satisfying.”

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How to create your own coffee community

Communities are difficult to build & difficult to maintain. With a solid foundation & the right people believing in the same vision, you have a higher chance of succeeding. In Chicago, the New Gotham Coffee Community is a strong network of individuals who wanted to create a community of coffee professionals. When a board was first established, I served as their Web & Social Director. Unless you have all the time & resources in the world, you will want a board. Talya Strader, the founder of New Gotham, wrote about her experience for the BGA blog.

I’m going to go into more detail on how you & others can start your own community. These are not in a particular order.

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#seaPDXsfo: Coffee, Eats, and Serenity in Portland

This is Part 3 of my #seapdxsfo vacation, dedicated to the coffee & food of Portland. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

In the second leg of my #seaPDXsfo trip, I rode into Portland on a cheap bus ticket. Nearly immediately after I went from one bus stop to wait for the city bus, it began hailing. Yes, hail. I thought, in April, that I had escaped hail. After all, I had left Chicago in search for warmer parts.

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