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MINNEAPOLIS — By most accounts the Specialty Coffee Association of America's (SCAA) 20th Annual Conference & Exhibition, held May 2 - 5 in Minneapolis, Minn., was a success. As the world's largest coffee trade association, SCAA assembled 7,321 specialty coffee professionals from more than 40 countries. The international conference featured the Coffee of the Year Competition and the United States Barista Championship, hosted by Krups, and more than 850 exhibit booths spotlighting the latest, most innovative coffee products available.
Local company, Caribou Coffee, the second-largest company-owned gourmet coffeehouse operator in the world, was SCAA's 2008 conference host sponsor. As the world's largest coffee event, the conference curriculum provided hours of education on topics such as growing and processing, roasting, brewing and serving, quality and standards, sustainability, industry trends, coffee cupping and agroecology. Conference attendees included coffee producers, exporters and importers, roasters, retailers, manufacturers, baristas and coffee enthusiasts.
In addition, the world coffee community visited a busy exhibition floor featuring everything coffee - green and roasted specialty coffees, commercial and home brewing equipment, espresso machines and grinders, coffee roasting equipment, coffee drinks, mixes and flavorings and syrups, to name a few of the highlights.
The conference theme of "Roots" was fitting as the association featured Ethiopia - the birthplace of coffee - throughout the four-day event. Conference attendees joined Ethiopian coffee growers, cooperatives and exporters in educational forums that looked at the achievements and progress of the Ethiopian Fine Coffee Trademarking and Licensing Initiative and how Ethiopian producers and international distributors can increase the supply of Ethiopian fine coffees while maintaining quality. The conference also featured the "experience" of Ethiopia, including music, coffee ceremonies and presentations of traditional attire and customs.
United States Barista Championship
The 2008 United States Barista Championship also took place in conjunction with the annual SCAA event.
The championship title was presented to Kyle Glanville from Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea in Los Angeles. Glanville edged out 58 of the nation's other top baristas to become the nation's best coffee server. He also qualifies to compete in the World Barista Championship in Copenhagen Denmark, June 19-22.
Roasters Guild Coffee of the Year Competition
In this prestigious event, experienced SCAA judges presented C.I. Racafe & CIA S.C.A. of Colombia with the Gold Award for producing the world's best specialty coffee in 2008. Judges cupped or thoroughly evaluated six distinct attributes of the competitors' coffee samples, including fragrance, aroma, taste, flavor, aftertaste and body. The Silver Award went to Panama's Hacienda La Esmerelda, which had won the previous three competitions. Volcafe Specialty Coffee of Ethiopia won the Bronze Award.
SCAA Best New Product Awards
A panel of judges also determined the best new products from the SCAA exhibition floor. The blue-ribbon award winners for 2008 include:
-- Best new product/ Coffee or Tea Preparation and Serving Equipment in the Commercial Marketplace - Ambex Coffee Roasters.
-- Best new product/ Educational or Training Product - Numi Organic Tea
-- Best new product/ Specialty Beverage - Red Espresso
-- Best new product/ Packaging - Tea District
-- Best new product/ Food - North Aire Market
-- Best New Product/ Open Class - E.A. Brevita Cooperative Association (for membership package)
A 'green' conference
In accord with SCAA's mission of promoting sustainability in the specialty coffee industry, the association created a carbon neutrality program to help offset emissions related to conference travel, lodging and energy consumption. Conference attendees paid a small tariff to participate in the program. The funds collected will be donated to sustainable agroforestry non-profit organization, Trees for the Future, for the purchasing and planting of new trees. SCAA and representatives from specialty coffee importer Sustainable Harvest will provide oversight on funding the project. SCAA continues its commitment to a sustainable environment during the association's 21st annual symposium & exposition, taking place next year in Atlanta, Ga., April 15 - 19.