SCAA Symposium Mon, 24 Aug 2015 18:07:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Keith Flury | Drought is the New Frost: Water and the Coffee Market Mon, 24 Aug 2015 18:07:08 +0000

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.

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Pierre Ferrari | A Wicked Problem: Understanding Complexity Tue, 04 Aug 2015 17:03:01 +0000

A wicked problem 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. In this 2015 Symposium talk, Pierre Ferrari 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.

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Mayra Orellana-Powell | Voices From Origin: A Producer-Driven Approach Fri, 17 Jul 2015 17:24:26 +0000

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.”

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Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood | The Simplest Ingredient? The Complexities of Water and Flavor Mon, 06 Jul 2015 19:09:33 +0000

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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Colleen Anunu | What the Research is Telling Us About Gender and Agriculture Tue, 23 Jun 2015 16:13:06 +0000

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.

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Daniele Giovannucci | The Business of Sustainability: Assessing What Matters Mon, 08 Jun 2015 20:01:26 +0000

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.

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Join SCAA for #SymposiumFriday Mon, 01 Jun 2015 20:33:02 +0000 Friends –

Last week, we did our first SCAA Symposium Friday Lunch at Headquarters in Santa Ana, where we watched a Symposium video over lunch, then discussed it afterwards. A number of our colleagues who heard about it expressed their enthusiasm to try it themselves! To support this, we figured we could create a little discussion guide to help start the discussion. We’ll be following along with the hashtag #Symposiumfriday if you want to take the discussion to social media!

On June 5 we watch “A Simple Question” By Michael Sheridan

Discussion Guide:

Sheridan’s talk tells a story of investigating “a simple question”; which variety should certain Colombian producers plant. The process of finding the answer was not so simple, and led to some surprise discoveries. This underscores the nature of inquiry, and that sometimes you wind up learning things that were not anticipated.

  1. What are your favorite coffee varieties? Do you associate certain varieties with certain qualities? How have you come by these associations?
  2. Sheridan poses a pointed question: if we want farmers to grow particular varieties, should we pay a premium for those that are less productive or more disease susceptible? How do we determine this premium?
  3. What other questions might be addressed with this kind of research? Are there any other assumptions commonly made about coffee quality that you think might bear investigating?

Other Resources:

  1. Michael Sheridan’s Blog, detailing the background of this project and much, much more
  2. Dr. Helene Hopfer’s talk from the 2014 SCAA Symposium, addressing the wine industry’s challenges determining ‘goodness’ in wine flavor
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Flavio Borem | Beyond Wet and Dry: Breaking Paradigms in Coffee Processing Tue, 26 May 2015 21:35:09 +0000

“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.

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Lindsey Bolger | A Sensory Lexicon: The Science of Flavor Mon, 11 May 2015 18:59:46 +0000

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.

In her 2015 Symposium talk, Lindsey Bolger discusses World Coffee Research’s partnership 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.

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The Next Evolution of Symposium is Re:co Mon, 04 May 2015 22:44:14 +0000 Last month in Seattle, WA, delegates from around the world attended the 7th Annual Specialty Coffee Association of America Symposium, and what would be the last SCAA Symposium…at least under this name. This is not the end of an era, however, but rather the beginning of a whole new life for our beloved specialty coffee symposium. As an evolution of Symposium, Re:co – for Regarding Coffee – will come into being with its first event in Gothenburg, Sweden on the 15th and 16th of June this summer. Launching at the Nordic World of Coffee, this event will focus primarily on the new speciality coffee market in Europe, including the state of the market, the challenges we face, and some of the solutions we have. Re:co will also shine a light on opportunities for growth and development and will delve into how these can be approached.

This inaugural Re:co Symposium will be the first of many, which will be held around the world (the second in Guatemala City this August), and will continue to be a platform for the most innovative and inspirational industry leaders in coffee, science, economics, and academia to present ideas, solutions, and take a look at the issues that are impacting specialty coffee across the supply chain.

Organized by World Coffee Events (WCE) and supported by SCAA and SCAE – the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe – Re:co provides a place for coffee professionals to surround themselves with fellow thought leaders and decision makers, make important connections, and seek to better understand the issues that are affecting key players in the specialty coffee industry. Symposium attendees reflect on the significance of this event and what it means to our industry:

To learn more, please visit

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