SCAA Symposium Fri, 30 Jan 2015 18:52:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Context Matters Fri, 30 Jan 2015 17:47:55 +0000 Since the inception of SCAA Symposium seven years ago, we’ve been thoughtful that, as we seek to create an environment where we can learn about and address the biggest challenges facing coffee, we must pay attention to the physical environment as well as the intellectual one. This year, we have taken a big new step: we’ve moved our Symposium from the convention center-style room we were in last year to a breathtaking new venue–the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall at the Benaroya Concert Hall, a serious place for substantial discussions. The great thing about an acoustically designed space is that conversations–between speaker and audience, between symposium attendee and their colleagues–are easier and more intelligible. And intelligibility leads to intelligence, and that is a big part of what we’re after.

Home of the Seattle Symphony, the Benaroya is an incredible collaborative space, prominently located in a complex thoroughly integrated into downtown. With its stunning grand lobby and intimate lounge spaces, the Benaroya will provide Symposium with a unique and powerful backdrop for both the lectures to be heard and the conversations to be had.

Illsley Ball Nordstrom recital Hall

The only possible drawback to our home this year is that it is space-constrained. We are strictly limited on the number of Symposium seats we have to sell, so if you plan on coming, get your seats in order right away. We can’t wait to spend time together.

The Benaroya Concert Hall is located at 200 University Street in Seattle, Washington, just five blocks from the Washington State Convention Center, home of the 27th Annual Event.

Register for Symposium 2015

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Symposium 2015: A Platform for New Ideas in Coffee Tue, 27 Jan 2015 04:52:49 +0000 (Reposted from The Specialty Coffee Chronicle)

By Kim Elena Ionescu, Counter Culture Coffee

Symposium is our community’s annual opportunity to come together and address, collaboratively, the big issues we are all grappling with and trying to understand. Sometimes these issues emerge as threats, as coffee leaf rust did in 2013, and other times, they present us with the chance to learn from each other’s experiences and forge new ground in a dynamic, competitive market.

Past delegates to Symposium can attest to the intensity of each year’s curriculum: the intent is to pack as much thought-provoking information into two days as possible, but the sessions are organized thoughtfully around key themes in search of a balance between breadth and depth of knowledge. This year’s topics continue the SCAA Symposium tradition of gaining elevation: by taking a bird’s-eye view of our industry, we are better equipped to identify the threats and opportunities most critical to our survival and our ability to thrive.


To begin at the beginning, The Heart of It: Quantifying and Optimizing Specialty Coffee, seeks to examine the core issues that we grapple with on a daily basis within our businesses and organizations as we pursue growth, sustainability, new markets and technological improvements. In addition to reflection on these issues, attendees will be exposed to data drawn from original SCAA research that adds context to our lived experiences. In 2014, Symposium delegates learned from some of the world’s leading sensory scientists that we have barely begun to understand how our coffee tastes. This year, The Cutting Edge of Sensory Science will further Symposium’s commitment to promoting greater understanding of the many factors that influence how our brains and bodies understand flavors and tastes (and it will, of course, include palate-expanding experiences).

It’s impossible to deny the scale of the obstacles, from climate change to market volatility, that face our global supply chains. With the resource that is at once the most ubiquitous and the most scarce as a lens, Water: The Invisible Driver of Coffee, will demonstrate how every significant topic in coffee, from agriculture to the futures market to the taste of the brewed beverage, depends on this critical resource. Likewise, given estimates that women perform 70% of agricultural work worldwide and hold 70% of tipped, food-service jobs in the United States, the question posed in Gender Equity: Can Shifting Our Focus Improve the Coffee Supply Chain? will present an area of great need as a one that is likewise brimming with potential.


Finally, though change can be challenging, if not downright uncomfortable, we must constantly look out for new opportunities in order to strengthen our leadership of the coffee industry and coffee’s position as a global leader in agriculture and food and customer service. Out of the Box: Unexpected Innovations in Coffee, provides a forum for exploring emerging ideas and a platform for a new generation of coffee industry thinkers to share their vision for what coffee is becoming.

Because topics on the leading edge of coffee tend to be controversial and the Symposium audience doesn’t shy away from debate, this year’s event will see the return of the popular discussion salons, which provide a forum for attendees to engage speakers directly and delve more deeply into the subjects they find most compelling. Also returning are the popular conversation lounges, where delegates can stay connected to the lectures and also connect to one another. These supplements to the roster speakers are crucial parts of the Symposium experience, because while world-class speakers and diverse topics help broaden our minds, the work is ours to do and there’s no group better equipped than this curious, passionate band of coffee obsessives.

Register for Symposium 2015

KimElena_zpsc2f47f83Kim delights in exploring the areas where coffee and business interests overlap with environmental and social themes. When not tackling assumptions about sustainability in specialty coffee, she spends her time cupping coffee, writing and speaking on behalf of Counter Culture Coffee, where she serves as a coffee buyer and the company’s Sustainability Manager.

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Britta Folmer: How Crema Impacts the Consumer’s Perception of Coffee Fri, 03 Oct 2014 16:31:57 +0000

There are many factors that impact how consumers experience coffee. Dr. Britta Folmer from Nespresso and her team set out to find out how the amount of crema in coffee would affect the overall sensory experience.

In this talk from Symposium 2014, Dr. Folmer discusses a study that was developed to evaluate coffee samples that contained no crema, half the amount of standard cup crema, standard crema, and double the amount of standard cup crema. The first phase of the study was consumer analysis. A group of consumers were divided into three groups: visual evaluation, blind taste evaluation, and full evaluation with visual and taste. They were then presented with the four coffee samples and asked how they thought the coffee would taste. Consumers were then asked how smooth they perceived the coffees.

The next phase of the study was aroma evaluation with a trained panel. They were asked to take seven sips of the coffees with varying crema levels and use the sensory attributes roasted, bitterness, or carbonary to describe the dominant taste.

Watch to find out the results of this intriguing research on the effects of crema on the consumer’s perception of coffee.

About the Speaker

Dr. Britta Folmer is the Coffee Science Manager at Nestlé Nespresso S.A. where she has been responsible for building and strengthening the company’s coffee science program for the past seven years. Working closely with Nestlé R&D teams, Dr. Folmer ensures that the science and expertise supporting Nespresso’s coffee quality and development is communicated to consumers, as well as the scientific and coffee expert community. Prior to joining Nespresso, Dr. Folmer spent six years with the Nestlé Research Center in Lausanne, Switzerland. Dr. Folmer holds a PhD in surface chemistry from the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden and a MSc in chemistry from the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands.

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Anna Kharbas: The Straus Family Creamery Story Tue, 09 Sep 2014 19:18:03 +0000

Anna Kharbas, manager of specialty and wholesale for Straus Family Creamery, addressed the fundamental question of this session: Should milk really matter to the coffee industry? Kharbas began her answer by speaking to something dear to the specialty coffee heart, namely, a value we share that in Greek, is called “meraki”: the soul, creativity or love put into something, the essence of yourself that is put into your work. The work of Straus Family Creamery, a collective of small organic dairy farmers, relates not only to creating memorable tastes, but also to the value of respect, for animals, the land, the environment—and of course, for their customers.

Based on this principle, Straus sought to develop a product with respect for the art of baristas; the ultimate Barista Milk. They invited baristas into their process, holding a Barista Jam where various levels of homogenization direct from the equipment. Homogenization is key to the creation of microfoam; all milk in its natural state is cream-top, meaning that the fat rises and separates. When homogenized, milk is forced through a valve under pressure, emulsifying it, binding proteins to fats, and counteracting the tendency to separate. However, the effect of homogenization on the quality of foam creates a curve: too little or too much creates poor quality. Straus and the baristas worked to find the precise sweet spot to create a milk that is the ultimate barista tool; a story which illustrates the ultimate application of “meraki”: a system only works if it works for everyone in it.

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Thom Huppertz: The Science of Milk Foam Tue, 26 Aug 2014 19:02:05 +0000

Dr. Thomas Huppert, principal scientist, NIZO Food Research, gives an extremely in-depth and highly technical talk on the chemistry and mechanics of milk foam, a vital part of our industry. The art of introducing air into dairy products has a long history, from holes in swiss cheese created by bacterial fermentation, to aerosol whipped cream. Dr. Huppert provided a plethora of information, not only on that, but on various other mechanisms by which heat application affects milk, and the power milk has affecting the flavor of coffee.

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Vida Asrina: The Kupi Culture Project Tue, 19 Aug 2014 19:08:32 +0000

Vida Asrina, co-founder of social enterprise the Kupi Culture Project in Banda Aceh on the island of Sumatra, gives us an insider’s view on the past half-century of coffee culture in her country. Vida details a surprising resurgence of coffee culture, which came as a side effect of a global-scale tragedy: the 2004 tsunami. Tents, raised in refugee camps to pass out coffee, became information hubs once again, now as people tried to find lost family and friends, and as hotspots to pass out foreign aid. As the region rebuilt, coffee shops regenerate changed; they were now hangouts for employees of NGOs and government programs, making them open to women and younger demographics. This inevitably led to the trend of providing Internet access in coffee shops, which attracted the youth even more. Today, in partnership with the government, Kupi Culture brings together architects, designers, and entrepreneurs with the youth in the context of these coffee shops, to brainstorm creative solutions to social, economic and urban needs in Banda Aceh.

About the Speaker

Vida is a coffee lover who believes that coffee shops are the best places to discover new ideas. She is passionate about humanity, people, community engagement, cultural and social issues, entrepreneurship, design thinking, and their relationship with architecture. Vida is the founder of Kupi Culture, an innovation hub in Banda Aceh, a town in Indonesia that was affected by the tsunami 2004. Her main goal is to research post-conflict architecture and how a community can recover and gain back their strength to rebuild their city. Vida and her business partner Joanne Taylor intend to utilize coffee shops as public spheres as a platform to generate ideas. Vida obtained a Masters of Architecture from the University of Technology Sydney. Currently, Vida is involved with UTS U.Lab and also works as a designer/innovation facilitator at Fusion Labs (corporate co-innovation) located in Fishburners, a co-working space in Sydney, Australia.

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Helene Hopfer: Experts, Evaluation, and Establishing “Good” Wed, 30 Jul 2014 16:08:13 +0000

Dr. Helene Hopfer wants to know who decides what “good” wine is. Is it the wine marketers that entice us with beautifully designed labels, the wine gurus that help us feel like experts for choosing a wine that they describe as “intellectually satisfying,” or is it more simple than that? To find out, a Descriptive Analysis Panel was assembled to evaluate wine in two phases. The first phase established a common, more familiar vocabulary for wine descriptors. Phase two involved individual assessments of wine samples. Wine consumers had a wide range of what “good” meant to them. Dr. Hopfer’s advice for determining good? “Drink what you want to drink and what you love. You are the ultimate judge.”

About the Speaker

Dr. Helene Hopfer is currently working as a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Department of Viticulture & Enology at the University of California, Davis. Dr. Hopfer is interested in the sensory properties of food and wine, and works at the intersection of analytical chemistry and sensory science to gain a better understanding of food and wine quality, and has worked on wine, fresh fruit and non-food materials. She obtained her doctorate in Chemistry from Graz University of Technology in 2006, and also holds a MSc in Polymer Science from the University of Leoben.

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Alex Bernson: Creating the Social Cafe – A Holistic Approach to Staff & Customer Happiness Tue, 22 Jul 2014 14:31:25 +0000

The way a cafe constructs retail and social experiences for guests is evolving, and it all starts with a layout that encourages interaction between the customer and the service professional. Alex Bernson gave this compelling talk at Symposium 2014 on cafe spaces and the role of the barista in this equation. Bernson asserts that service work is a form of acting and baristas are required to put on a performance of sorts, which can cause burn out among staff. The ultimate goal of a cafe, according to Bernson, should be to create fun, engaging spaces for baristas to interact with guests in an authentic way. “Successful long term service comes from easy, genuine connections with guests,” he says, and in this talk he’ll show how high engagement plus emotionally connected service can lead to a loyal returning customer.

About the Speaker

Alex Bernson is the assistant editor at He fell in love with cafes at Espresso Vivace, where he started his coffee career in 2006. He has since made coffee in just about every retail setting, from farmer’s market stands to busy Manhattan bars to high end restaurant/cafes, to Espwesso, the student-run cafe he founded at Wesleyan University. He managed Sweetleaf Coffee’s Hunter’s Point expansion in New York City, and now resides in Portland, writing about coffee news and culture as the Assistant Editor for Alex’s passion is the unique social roles cafes fill in their communities. In 2011, he graduated with a multi-disciplinary degree in Feminist & Queer Theory focused Urban Sociology, after completing an honors thesis entitled “The Social Space of The Café: How Service and Physical Design Condition Social Performances”. He presented an extension of that work at the 2013 Nordic Barista Cup entitled “Constructing Social Spaces: Coffee, Food and Alcohol.”

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Tracy Ging: A New Generation of Coffee Drinkers Tue, 15 Jul 2014 17:22:34 +0000

In this talk from Symposium 2014, Tracy Ging gives us a comprehensive look at the main purchase drivers of coffee today. For today’s new coffee consumers, the value of specialty coffee is not just about the bean. Coffee quality is the sum of the entire experience, not just the product being served. In order to appeal to these consumers, a new language about coffee needs to be developed, and through this process it is crucial to understand what these consumers value. They are more sophisticated coffee drinkers, and are interested in sustainability, specialty ingredients, and the ambiance of the cafe. They want to learn as much as they can about the nuances of coffee, but also want to make it their own. With strong brand loyalty and increased purchasing at the cafe level, Tracy asserts that this new consumer is poised to be the best generation of coffee drinkers yet.

About the Speaker

Tracy Ging is the Vice President of Sustainability and Strategic Initiatives for S&D Coffee. With nearly twenty years of experience in the food & beverage industry, Tracy has spent the majority of her career in coffee in a variety of roles throughout its value chain. She is deeply and personally committed to making sure coffee drinkers enjoy their favorite beverages with the confidence of responsible sourcing practices.

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David Piza: How to Live With Coffee Leaf Rust, a Constant Reality Tue, 08 Jul 2014 23:48:59 +0000

In this important talk from Symposium 2014, David Piza discusses some of the challenges we are facing because of coffee leaf rust, an issue that affects the entire coffee supply chain. Piza explains that there are many opportunities to get involved and do something to work towards finding solutions. In addition to research that is taking place around the world to address the cause of coffee leaf rust, physical solutions to control the spread of rust have been implemented, as well as a regional communication plan that includes podcasts, magazines, pamphlets, and websites. All of these tools are raising the awareness of this issue in coffee producing communities and educating producers about how to deal with it at the farm level.

About the Speaker
David Piza is a Colombian that brings expertise in value chain analysis, sustainable supply chains and marketing strategies for international trade in the coffee sector. David works at Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers as Relationship Coffee Manager and supports the Let’s Talk Coffee conferences. He has also worked at the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) and volunteered for the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) and its Symposium since 2009. David is a trained cupper and barista judge and speaks Spanish, English, Italian, French, and Portuguese.

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