SCAA Symposium Tue, 21 Apr 2015 15:51:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Session Recap: Day Two, Afternoon Fri, 10 Apr 2015 00:05:11 +0000 By Maria Hill

Gender Equity: Can Shifting Our Focus Improve the Supply Chain?

Hosted by Kimberly Easson, VP of Strategic Partnerships & Gender Program Advisor, Coffee Quality Institute

Kimberly Easson introduced the final Symposium session about Gender Equity that explored the issue of gender in producing countries. Recent data is showing that investing in gender inclusive value chain activities is integral to sustaining a vibrant industry, healthy families, and quality coffee. Symposium attendees were challenged to identify what opportunities they have to support gender equity within the coffee supply chain.

A World With No Gender Gap
Lorena Aguilar, Global Senior Adviser, IUCN

90 percent of the world’s countries have at least one law that prohibits women access to things like bank accounts, land ownership, and education. Acknowledging and understanding the gender gap is crucial to inspiring a change. IUCN is empowering women in countries like Jordan, Egypt and Liberia by providing opportunities to collect and share data about climate change with government leaders and decision makers. Giving women a seat at the table leads to a more effective and efficient community structure, this is how transformation looks. Lorena closed her presentation with a powerful message: gender equality is not the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.

What the Research is Telling Us About Gender and Agriculture
Colleen Anunu, Researcher and Educator, Master’s Candidate at Cornell

The traditional view of small holder farmers is that their households behave as one unit and that everyone has say in production, income, etc. The reality is that households are composed of individuals with different risk, profiles, access and opportunities. When we do not take these differences into consideration, in regards to the supply chain, it has negative affects on production and amplifies constraints for women’s participation. A recent study of the value chain analysis revealed that to address gender inequities improvements are needed in the following areas: control over access to assets, time and labor allocation, decision making over income, decision making over agriculture production, social networks and leadership in community. How can coffee professionals leverage their positions in the supply chain to affect change? When planning a coffee incentive program, like price premiums, or social project consider if it is actually enforcing gender equity. If we are are not considering the differences we are amplifying them.

Gender Equity in Practice: The Bukonzo Joint Case
Paineto Baluku, Managing Director, Bukonzo Cooperative Union
Katherine Nolte, Coffee Marketer & Marketing Advisor, Twin

Gender dynamics in rural farming households has a direct impact on coffee quality and the supply chain, when you improve gender balance you improve your supply. In Uganda traditionally women would pick the coffee and men would sell coffee, and keep all of the profit. This lead to women picking coffee before it was ripe in order to sell it to support the household. This cycle led to low quality coffee and reinforced competition between men and women in households. The Bukonzo Cooperative Union is working to improve both gender equity and coffee quality in Uganda. Through a series of collaborative planning events that utilized pictorial brainstorming it was revealed that both women and men would rather work together instead of compete. The coop is supporting this goal by including women in leadership and training opportunities as well as offering them co-ownership of coffee growing land. This commitment to gender equity had a direct affect on coffee quality, the average cupping scores increased from 77 in 2011 to 85.75 in 2014. In the words of Katherine Nolte “balanced trees bear richer fruit.”

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Session Recap: Day Two, Morning Thu, 09 Apr 2015 19:22:41 +0000 By Jesse Bladyka

Out of the Box: Unexpected Innovations in Coffee

This morning, rested after an extraordinary opening day, the Symposium audience reconvened to hear from a group of innovators who spoke about pushing boundaries, extending limits, and exploring the frontiers of the specialty coffee industry, both figuratively and literally.

A New Frontier: Coffee Farming in California?
Jay Ruskey, Owner/Grower, Good Land Organics

Jay Ruskey owns Good Land Organics in Goleta, California, and is proving that coffee can be grown in California! In the sensory experience area, he provided different varieties of coffee fruit to taste. He reminded us that coffee is indeed a fruit, and invited us to taste it next to other non-native fruits that he grows in Goleta. These included Cherimoya, Suriname Cherry and the incredible caviar lime. Ruskey has opened a nursery and is distributing coffee plants throughout California, to farmers and also for people to plant outside of their homes. He notes that “by farming in extremes, we can learn very quickly.”

Small But Mighty? Biological Rust Controls
Harry Evans, Emeritus Fellow, CAB International

Harry Evans took the stage and opened our eyes to a few important developments in the world of Coffee Rust. Evans studies classical biological controls, or ways to use co-evolved organisms to naturally control pests or pathogens. A critical point for biological controls is examining the “center of origin” and the enormously complex ecosystem of microbial life that has evolved together. There are natural “enemies” to the coffee rust fungus, but these enemies haven’t always traveled with the fungus, which may have aided the rust in its ability to succeed at the cost of the coffee. Perhaps the most astounding point he made was the revelation that coffee rust may not have co-evolved with arabica. He suspects that it might have actually evolved with robusta, and for that reason, expects that his search for answers will lead him further toward Central Africa.

Things We Like:Culture’s Impact on Preference
Charlotte Biltekoff, Associate Professor, University of California Davis

Charlotte Biltekoff challenged us to reframe the way that we think about food and culture by considering the politics of nutrition. What does it mean to be a good eater? How is that the same or different than being a good citizen? She presented a World War II era nutritional guideline aligning eating healthy with good citizenship and poor nutrition with supporting Hitler. She then compared this to the current popularity of fresh squeezed juices as it compares to campaigns against drinking sugar loaded soft drinks. She argued that health is not only scientific, but it reflects and measures social values. History helps us because it changes how we see things, it’s easy to see the cultural context of history, can we apply that to how we are thinking and talking about specialty coffee today?

During a coffee break, in the Swiss Water sensory area, we were able to experience some very cool things. Three different Colombian coffees were paired with three different exquisite chocolates in the pairings outlined by Bernard Lahousse and Luis Fernando Samper during yesterdays sensory session. Tasting coffee and chocolate seems to be almost always a complimentary experience, but it was amazing to see the effects of highlighting very specific shared flavor notes and how that helped differentiate the coffees. We were also introduced to some of the WCR sensory lexicon reference standards that were discussed by Lindsey Bolger yesterday.

The program thus far has been swift moving and deep in content. This afternoon in the discussion Salons we will have the opportunity to delve deeper into all of these topics with the speakers and with the powerful minds present here at Benaroya Hall today.

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Session Recap: Day One, Afternoon Thu, 09 Apr 2015 15:34:52 +0000 By Hanna Neuschwander

The Cutting Edge of Sensory Science

Hosted by Emma Bladyka, Coffee Science Manager, SCAA

Emma started us off this afternoon with a reminder that this is not the first time Symposium has tackled the issue of sensory science—and it’s unlikely to be the last. The complexity of describing coffee flavor and aroma is a central challenge for the industry. But it’s also a primary source of our passion for coffee, and a site for some of the richest research and innovation happening in the industry right now.

A Sensory Lexicon: The Science of Flavor
Lindsey Bolger, VP of Coffee Sourcing & Excellence, Keurig Green Mountain

The future of the coffee industry depends on being able to breed the next generation of coffees that are both climate tolerant and have all of the beautiful flavors and aromas we know are possible in specialty. In order for coffee breeding programs to succeed, the industry needs a universal vocabulary of flavor that is both rigorous and replicable. World Coffee Research has partnered with Kansas State University to develop just such a lexicon. The sensory scientists at KSU—some of the best in the world—have identified 108 unique flavor attributes of coffee, with a manual that describes references for those flavors and their intensity. Researchers and breeders will use the lexicon to understand the genetic underpinnings of those 108 flavors, and to ensure that the next generation of coffee cultivars is both resilient and tastes amazing.

Turning Good Science into Good Business
Luis Fernando Samper, Science Director, FNC
Bernard Lahousse, Co-founder,

What potential does flavor have to drive business? Luis Semper introduced us to a current project in Columbia to define denominations of origin. The idea, borrowed from wine, is a way of defining coffee regions with identifiable differences in flavor and character that emerge from the environment—coffee terroir. To do this rigorously is hard enough from a scientific perspective, but Luis suggests that the bigger challenge is to communicate those differences clearly to consumers. One solution is to engage chefs, baristas, and other “influencers” to play and experiment with coffee’s flavors and pair them with food and spirits.

To that end, the FNC engaged Bernard Lahousse from Lahousse reminds us that 80% of taste perception is really smell, so aroma is essential to any project related to flavor perception. (To demonstrate this, Lahousse handed everyone in the audience a capsule of sugar mixed with cinnamon. Each person was instructed to pinch their nose and put the sugar in their mouth—it was sweet and crunchy with no trace of cinnamon. After release their noses, the audience collectively gasped—a flood of cinnamon, imperceptible without smell, inundated their senses all at once.) The best pairings come from elements of overlap in chemical aroma signatures—kiwi and oysters, for example, have shared molecular elements that make them both fruity and sealike. Lahousee used complex algorithms to map the unique aromatic signature of Nariño coffee and match it with food items that have critical overlap. The result? An ideal dessert to pair with Nariño coffee: Lemon custard with a garnish of raspberry. The website lets chefs, baristas, and others see what other flavors pair well with coffees from the different Columbian denominations.

Water: The Invisible Driver of Coffee

Hosted by Kim Elena Ionescu, Coffee Buyer and Sustainability Manager, Counter Culture Coffee

From the illusory nature of sensory science to the easy-to-overlook importance of water. In a city like Seattle, where any tap will deliver unlimited qualities of clean, safe water on demand, Kim Elena Ionescu asks: When water is seemingly ubiquitous, is it possible to see clearly how essential it is, and how fragile? Can exploring coffee’s relationship with water help prepare our industry for a future where water is more scarce? Kim suggests that the fact that we so rarely attend to the central importance to our industry represents a huge opportunity to do better.

We All Drink Downstream: Water and Ecosystems
Paul Hicks, Water Resources Coordinator, Catholic Relief Services

Globally, water scarcity and cleanliness is one of the biggest future risks humans face. Coffee farms are upstream of drinking water sources for over 9 million people in Central America. But Paul tells us there is massive potential for the specialty coffee sector to have a positive impact here: “There is no agricultural system more effective at managing a healthy water cycle than shade grown coffee.” What can roasters and coffee buyers do? Help producing partners to focus on soil management, work with certifiers to make sure that farms aren’t contaminating downstream drinking water sources, and buy coffee processed with water-saving technologies, among other possible solutions.

Drought is the New Frost: Water and the Coffee Market
Keith Flury, Head of Coffee Research, Volcafe

How does water—or the absence of it—affect the business of coffee? As Keith Flury points out, it has come to have a massive effect on C prices. “Drought is the new frost.” In recent years, Brazilian frosts have been on the decline and droughts are ascendant. Because Brazil represents so much of the globe’s coffee production, when Brazilian coffee yields decline due to weather, the C price often goes up. The price increase prompts coffee farmers elsewhere in the world to plant more coffee. This coffee takes 3-5 years to mature, usually well after the price has fallen again. So, while increased prices may on the surface sound like a good thing, it often isn’t. Brazilian droughts are exacerbating the boom-and-bust cycle of coffee all around the world, creating more volatility and less stability for producers.

Beyond Wet and Dry: Breaking Paradigms in Coffee Processing
Flavio Borem, Professor, Federal University of Lavras

“I hope to inspire new discussion about old paradigms.” So began Dr. Borem in a talk that challenged specialty coffee leaders to rethink assumptions about wet and dry-processed coffee. Natural coffees are often perceived to be of lower quality and lesser consistency than wet processed coffees. Flavio explains that the most important factor in any coffee’s consistency is the integrity of cell membranes inside the coffee beans. Natural coffees are more sensitive to cell membrane damage than washed coffees. If the cells are damaged, the coffee can taste oily and fade significantly faster. But naturals are not inherently less consistent than washed coffees—with the right drying temperatures and drying rate, they are capable of great beauty and consistency. This matters not just for taste, but for sustainability. Natural coffees use 0 liters of water to produce per bag. Traditional washed coffees use an astounding 1,240 liters per bag.

The Simplest Ingredient? The Complexities of Water and Flavor
Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, Director, Colonna & Small’s

UK Barista Champion Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood had a mystery on his hands. A coffee that should have tasted amazing tasted “like rubbish.” The culprit turned out to be water. Colonna-Dashwood teamed up with a scientist at the University of Bath to try to understand why his water was causing his coffee to taste all wrong when the standard industry metric for water quality—TDS—said the water was all right. It turns out that TDS is a profoundly imprecise way to measure the most important components in water: Calcium, magnesium, and bicarbonate. Two waters could have the same TDS reading but wildly different quantities of these individual minerals, meaning that the same coffee brewed in different cafes could taste profoundly different. Without realizing it, coffee roasters have been creating roast profiles that are suited to their particular water terroir. But, as Maxwell said in closing, “I’m interested in the terroir of the coffee, not the terroir of the water,” pointing to a possible opportunity for the specialty industry to explore water standardization.

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Session Recap: Day One, Morning Wed, 08 Apr 2015 20:54:34 +0000 By Danny Pinnell

Symposium 2015 kicks off with a welcome from director Peter Giuliano. Leading up to this year’s conversation, he was frequently asked about the theme. He admits that the content of Symposium doesn’t revolve around a set theme–this year’s sessions were inspired by five important topics that were brought up in response to last year’s Symposium–but after examining all of the talks this year, Peter realized the natural-occurring themes of investigation, sharing information, and taking action in response–all of which are expressed throughout the Symposium 2015 talks.

SCAA Executive Director Ric Rhinehart hosts The Heart of It: Quantifying and Optimizing Specialty Coffee. Instead of his usual predictions about the future of the coffee market in his introduction, he channels his inner Ira Glass, presenting the session as a five-act play.

Act I: A Wicked Problem: Understanding Complexity
Pierre Ferrari, President and CEO of Heifer International

A wicked problem is a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize. The use of term “wicked” here has come to denote resistance to resolution, rather than evil. Pierre urges the coffee industry to think outside the cup. Thinking outside the cup in this case refers to providing opportunities to small coffee farmers to produce additional crops. The addition of bees to farms to produce honey, cows for milk, and crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and papayas help increase the daily cash flow for these farmers.

Act II: A Simple Question: Caturra or Castillo?
Michael Sheridan, Director of Borderlands Coffee Project

Although he began with comparing the Caturra vs. Castillo contrioversy to the 1997 film “Men With Guns,” Michael recognizes the farms involved in making decisions on which cultivar to use we were persuaded with guns, but varietal opinions; they were not threatened, but offered incentives. They were offered the choice between the promise of disease-resistant, highly-productive Castillo and a shot at the big leagues with the already established Caturra cultivar, promising to deliver a quality product. Using 2 panels to test each of these cultivars, Michael concluded that there were no statistically significant results. The coffees were equally revered. Michael’s research recognizes the need to rethink Caturra and the value of Castillo.

Act III: Voices From Origin: A Producer-Driven Approach
Mayra Orellana-Powell, Marketing Director of Royal Coffee Company

Beginning on an emotional note, Mayra’s opening statement, “I am representing small producers and I’m grateful for that opportunity,” was received with well-deserved applause. Inspiration from her grandmother led Mayra to start a company designed to help small coffee producers increase their earnings for living wages. Catracha Coffee has been her way to reconnect with her family and embrace her grandmother’s legacy for community empowerment. Mayra strives to engage with producers about their lives beyond coffee, recognize and promote corporation solidarity, make changes in the community, and promote collaboration through profit sharing, which has become the foundation for her success. Signing off, Mayra simply states, “Please support small coffee producers.”

Act IV: The Business of Sustainability: Assessing What Matters
Daniele Giovannucci, President of the Committee on Sustainable Assessment (COSA)

When we talk about measurement, we recognize that there is a lot of data. Earth’s careful and specific trajectory illustrates measurement’s finite edge. Varying one-ninth of an inch every 18 miles, the planet sustains a living temperature. Daniele’s five key principles keep the coffee industry on a trajectory similar to that of Earth’s orbit in importance. These principles include common indicators that reduce confusion, standardized measures improving project design and assessment, local capacity for relevance, multi-dimensional views that offer systemic understanding, and international validity. If we have the right metrics, we can understand real productivity, which is different in each region.

Act V: Vital Signs: Indicators of A Healthy Market
Heather Ward, SCAA Research Analyst, and Ben Pitts, Vice President of Food Service and Hospitality at Royal Cup Coffee and Tea

In a relatively consumer-focused look over the industry, Heather assures us that the vital signs loo positive. People like–and are willing to pay for–specialty coffee, the demand for and the value of specialty coffee in the eyes of the consumer exists. In order to create a perpetual metric of how industry health in terms of retail, a Retail Sentiment Index (RSI) was created. The RSI for January 2015 reflected a score of 66.5 on a scale from -100 to 100, showing great positivity. Building upon the results of Heather’s research, Ben encourages the market to expand, and challenges restaurants to treat coffee they same way that they do with food–to deliver the coffee experience that consumers are expecting more and more of today.

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SCAA Launches Roaster Research Survey Tue, 07 Apr 2015 20:32:02 +0000 In partnership with Pacific Bag, Inc. and Roast Magazine, the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) is pleased to announce the launch of the Roaster Research Survey. This survey focuses on financial operating metrics, as well as information on human resources, advertising/marking efforts, and best practices.

All respondents to the survey will receive:

  • Full Industry-Wide Report
    This report will include comparative financial ratios and company statistics of respondents based on key data segments – such as: All Respondents, Profitability, Net Sales, Full-Time Equivalent Employees, and any other data aggregation deemed relevant.

  • Company Performance Report (CPR)
    Confidential, individualized reports of a participant’s own financial ratios, operating statistics, and profile characteristics shown alongside the appropriate industry comparatives (i.e., all respondents, profitability, net sales, FTEs, etc.). These reports provide respondents an easy means for interpreting their results; since their own ratios are already calculated for them in a manner that is consistent with the industry calculations.

Additionally, the Company Performance Reports will also include a “Report Card” which will essentially “grade” your company on key ratios using the quartiles as benchmarks. The Report Card will focus on the key operating ratios and will provide actionable feedback on the success and/or improvement areas for each respondent.

Respond to the survey. The online form has “save and return” functionality to allow you to start the survey, save what you have completed, and return later to finish.

To ensure timely results, please complete the survey by April 17th.

To assure confidentiality, Industry Insights Inc. of Columbus, Ohio has retained by SCAA to distribute the survey and to collect and process the survey results. All responses will be returned directly to the Industry Insights where they will be kept in strict confidence; no individual company responses will be shared with SCAA or any other person or organization. Read the Industry Insights’ statement of confidentiality and non-disclosure for this study.

Thank you, in advance, for participating in this effort to gather data about the roaster industry.

If you have questions, contact Michael Becher, CPA, Senior Project Director of Industry Insights at (614) 389-2100, ext. 114 or

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Program and Schedule Released for Symposium 2015 Wed, 25 Mar 2015 20:48:37 +0000

We are pleased to present the Symposium 2015 program, which contains the complete schedule of events and sessions, along with a wealth of information about the things you can look forward to as a Symposium attendee. Here’s the Symposium schedule at a glance:

Tuesday, April 7

5 – 8 PM | Registration Reception  | Recital Hall Lobby

Wednesday, April 8

7 – 10 AM | Registration / Badge Pickup  | Recital Hall Lobby
7:30 – 8:30 AM | Breakfast  | Grand Lobby
9 – 10:25 AM | The Heart of It: Quantifying and Optimizing Specialty Coffee | Recital Hall
10:25 – 11 AM | Coffee Break | Promenade
11 – 12:15 PM | The Heart of It, cont. | Recital Hall
12:15 – 1:15 PM | Lunch | Grand Lobby
1:15 – 2:05 PM | The Cutting Edge of Sensory Science | Recital Hall
2:05 – 2:55 PM | Water: The Invisible Driver of Coffee | Recital Hall
2:55-3:25 PM  | Coffee Break  | Promenade
3:25 – 4:15 PM  | Water, cont.  | Recital Hall
4:30 – 6 PM | Cocktail Hour  | Promenade
6 PM | Dinner | Blueacre Seafood

Thursday, April 9

7:30 – 8:30 AM | Breakfast | Grand Lobby
9 – 9:20 AM | Introduction | Recital Hall
9:20 – 10:15 AM | Out of the Box: Unexpected Innovations in Coffee | Recital Hall
10:15 – 10:45 AM | Coffee Break | Promenade
10:45 – 12 PM | Gender Equity: Can Shifting Our Focus Improve the Supply Chain? | Recital Hall
12 – 1 PM | Lunch | Grand Lobby
1 – 2:30 PM | Discussion Salons (Rotation 1) | Various Locations
2:30 – 3 PM | Coffee Break | Promenade
3 – 4:30 PM | Discussion Salons (Rotation 2) | Various Locations
4:30 – 5 PM | Reflections and the Way Forward | Recital Hall
6 – 7 PM | The Event Opening Ceremonies | Washington State Convention Center
7 – 10 PM | SCAA Block Party & TNT | Melrose Market

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Out of the Box Thinking Takes the Stage at Symposium 2015 Tue, 17 Mar 2015 19:15:13 +0000 By Jesse Bladyka

Symposium VII is fast approaching! I urge you to reflect on the last year in coffee as you’ve seen it. Gather your ideas, your successes, your failures, bring your joys and concerns and register to join us! At this event we will share our experiences as we congregate to inspire and be inspired to explore and inform the next chapter of Specialty Coffee.

As a relatively new industry segment, Specialty Coffee has always relied on adaptation, innovation and rapid evolution to differentiate our products from coffee with a lowercase c. This year at Symposium, there will be a very special session where we will hear from some of the most exciting innovators relative to coffee. Those who think “Out of the Box” about the various ways that their work intersects with Specialty Coffee and will guide the future of the industry.

This session will feature a diverse group of presenters, a coffee farmer from California, a plant and insect pathologist from CABI, and a professor of American Studies and Food Science and Technology from the University of California Davis. It will be hosted by our very own Peter Giuliano in order to frame the conversation with an industry specific lens. The intent of the session is to explore the work of these innovators and expose their ideas to the Symposium community. As attendees, we will have the opportunity to engage with these ideas first-hand and allow them to inform our professional lives in every phase of Specialty Coffee, thus weaving this innovation into the fabric of our industry.

bladykaJay Ruskey has been an innovator in farming for over twenty years. His farm, Good Land Organics, is located in Goleta, California, just two miles from the Pacific Ocean. It has a unique microclimate that allows for frost free winters and fog cooled summers, creating ideal growing conditions for subtropical crop species. These crops include yuzu, dragonfruit, cherimoya, and most relevant to Symposium, coffee! At Good Land Organics, Ruskey is cultivating thirteen different varieties of coffee and exploring different agricultural practices. Some of these include precision irrigation and the use of irrigation as a fertilization delivery method. He is focused on post-harvest processing and how to capture varietal flavors so that they can be expressed in the cup. He describes his model as somewhere between Kona Coffee and California Wine. The cost of land and labor somewhat restricts the market for California grown coffee but he is optimistic as he sees specialty markets emerging in Asia, and the worldwide Specialty Coffee industry elevating its standards.

In addition to Good Land Organics, Ruskey was involved in the foundation of California Coffee Growers, a collaborative of coffee growers working to spread knowledge and coffee throughout the state. Ruskey has focused his efforts on an existing group of farmers. California has a thriving avocado industry, and he hopes to prove that like in so many coffee producing countries, avocados can provide a useful shade and intercropping opportunity to support a nascent coffee industry in California. While he is just getting going, he hopes to see a quarter of a million coffee trees in California in the near future. As he puts it, “If avocados can grow, so can coffee!”

bladykaCABI used to be known as Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau International, a non-profit organization whose website states that their work focuses on “[improving] people’s lives by providing information and applying scientific expertise to solve problems in agriculture and the environment.” Harry Evans is a Principal Scientific Officer with CABI and studies classical biological control (CBC), which means identifying co-evolved natural occurring enemies to control pests and pathogens, rather than using intensive chemical application or aggressive management techniques. Evans has worked with many different crops that utilize CBC. He has even worked on a project that included using a rust fungus, similar to coffee leaf rust, as a way to bioliogcally control an invasive plant species in Australia. He is now working on a project quite the opposite, searching for a CBC in an attempt to control coffee leaf rust.

Although the work is just beginning and there are no definitive results, Evans says that the initial field reports suggest that the strategy has potential. Over the past two years at Symposium, we have heard many stories of devastation from coffee producers affected by La Roya. We have learned that farmers in the most remote areas, without access to fungicide, or who are certified organic and have limited tools to combat the fungus are especially at risk. Evans says that CBC is “Very different, [than fungicides] because with CBC there is no ‘product’ per se: since it involves the release of a self-replicating, co-evolved natural enemy – theoretically, therefore, it’s cheap (no farmer inputs), ecologically benign (no chemicals), and sustainable (no repeated applications).” This certainly sounds like a strategy worth investigating!

bladykaIf all of this production focused innovation is not enough, we will also have the pleasure of hearing about how we can frame coffee consumption, and talk about the role that Specialty Coffee plays in our consuming cultures. Charlotte Biltekoff is a professor at the University of California Davis and an innovator in framing food and nutrition with a cultural perspective. In order to “think culturally” about food and health, or about coffee, we have to understand the context in which it exists. This is what Charlotte will be speaking about at Symposium. This differs from the various ways that we can quantify food or coffee, through sensory science, chemistry, or technology which can quantify the values surrounding the food and. Thinking culturally drives at the core of what we think of as “good food” and “bad food” and how they reflect not only nutritional science, but also social and cultural values.

As we look at coffee, and Specialty Coffee in particular, we see no shortage of cultural subtext and significance. Biltekoff aims to explore the ways that we might apply her work, some of which is documented in a recent book, “Eating Right in America: The Cultural Politics of Food and Health,” to our beloved beverage. She will also speak to the importance of understanding the history of a food when developing a cultural narrative. This cultural narrative has the potential to introduce the Specialty Coffee community to a new lens through which we can view our product in a more complete context.

These three innovative individuals come from radically different backgrounds and their work intersects with Specialty Coffee in very diverse ways. However, what may seem disparate at first glance, will upon closer examination reveal a synergistic passion for documentation and innovation within Specialty Coffee. This is the special, alchemistic nature of the SCAA Symposium. I hope to see you there!

bladykaJesse Bladyka is a Roasters Guild Member and SCAA Credentialed Instructor. He is currently employed as a coffee roaster in Sonoma County, California. He believes that we can make the world a better place by carefully and responsibly crafting usable and consumable goods within our communities.

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Symposium 2015 Speaker Spotlight | Part 2 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 21:12:02 +0000 Symposium celebrates new thinking in coffee–innovative ways to address our challenges, concepts that build our businesses, and fuel to push our industry forward. We are excited to invite thought leaders from a variety of disciplines to share their work at Symposium. Get to know some of this year’s speakers by viewing some of their past work below.

Daniele Giovannucci

Corporate Social Responsibility and the Role of Voluntary Sustainability Standards
As actualization of the CSR concept is increasingly explored and becoming better-defined, Daniele Giovannucci and colleagues explore how to operationalize CSR and how to manage it for desirable results at the ground level. Read more.


Lorena Aguilar

Environment and Gender Index Data Reveal Women’s Rights Make a Difference
Global Senior Gender Adviser of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Lorena Aguilar addresses the integral role women play in addressing the complex challenges our world faces on a daily basis. Read more.


Ben Pitts

Let’s Talk to Ben Pitts About…Coffee!
In his interview with The National Culinary Review, Ben Pitts talks about trends in coffee, the future of coffee businesses, and why specialty coffees have become so popular. Read more.




Heather Ward

U.S. Specialty Coffee Consumption

Utilizing data obtained from the NCA’s 2014 Annual Drinking Trends Study, Heather Ward presents an analysis of the current state of the specialty coffee market. Download PDF.

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Highly Skilled Barista Guild of America Members Provide Symposium Coffee Service Tue, 10 Mar 2015 16:27:11 +0000 The attendees of Symposium are industry leaders and firebrands, and the opportunity to serve coffee to that particular crowd presents a welcome and worthy challenge to the Barista Guild of America each year. BGA Executive Council leadership works closely with the SCAA Coffee Design and Experience Coordinator on ideas around what kind of coffee experience is to be delivered and then finely tune those ideas with a team of highly skilled volunteer BGA members who have obtained at least a Level 1 certificate in the BGA Certificate Program in order to execute the service. These highly regarded volunteer positions are badges of honor for all who participate.

While there is always a higher-level concept to the Symposium coffee service, the core is always quality in coffee and quality in service. BGA Executive Council Member and 2014 United States Barista Champion Laila Ghambari has acted as the BGA’s representative in working on the design the Symposium coffee service for the last several years, and this year she has worked with the SCAA Volunteers Coordinator to put together a group of accomplished lead baristas each with their own highly talented crews.

Laila’s experience at the 2014 World Barista Championship served as inspiration for this years’ Symposium coffee service. A selection of 2015 WBC competitors provided answers to a set of questions, which were then interpreted by the lead baristas of the Symposium coffee service and used as a basis for each of their respective coffee service concepts, as well as the coffees that will be served throughout the event. Coffee will be available at four separate espresso bars, as well as a brewed coffee bar.

We look forward to unveiling these concepts and most of all to serving you delicious coffees at the 2015 Symposium.

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Stimulate Your Senses in the Swiss Water® Sensory Experience Room Tue, 10 Mar 2015 16:21:58 +0000 Each and every Symposium talk aims to evoke and inspire. For the last three years, we’ve taken some of that evocation and inspiration and worked to create sensory experiences as extensions of them. The Swiss Water Process Sensory Experience Room is where ideas presented become applied.

Working with representatives of Swiss Water® and SCAA’s Coffee Science Manger, the Symposium team talks through the topics and themes that are being presented and looks at interesting ways to incorporate them into various tasting and olfactory exercises. Once the exercises are determined, a volunteer corps is hand-selected from sensory professionals and Roasters Guild leadership in order to help guide attendees through the activities.

Creating a way to personalize the concepts that are presented on the stage, as well as to plant sensory memories of those concepts, helps to deepen the overall Symposium experience for attendees. The Sensory Experience Room is set up to be passive in that, as an attendee, you can move through each of the available exercises at your leisure and in whatever order you’d like. Each and every exercise is developed to be engaging and is built around concepts of what and why and how you taste. Taking the time to carefully consider each exercise in its own pace reaps major rewards, so don’t be afraid to come and go and throughout the day so that you have the time to give your attention appropriately.

Both days of Symposium will have their own unique exercises presented in the room. This year we’ll be looking at key coffee questions around subjects from water quality to coffee processing, food pairing, exotic fruits, sugar refinement, and World Coffee Research’s coffee flavor lexicon project. We can’t wait to stimulate your senses.

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