SCAA Symposium Tue, 31 Mar 2015 01:14:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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 Process 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 Process 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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Symposium 2015 Speaker Spotlight | Part 1 Thu, 26 Feb 2015 20:10:50 +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 familiar with some of this year’s speakers’ work below.

Mayra Orellana-Powell

The Way Back to Yarasquin
Mayra Orellana-Powell’s vision and determination has made her a leader and advocate for her rural mountain village in Honduras. This film follows her journey as she starts a small coffee business and pursues the great coffee that is calling attention to Honduras, an emerging coffee leader. Watch the film.


Charlotte Biltekoff

Imperfection Salad
In one of twelve interconnecting short films in the Lunch Love Community documentary project, Charlotte Biltekoff explores food and education, children and health, and citizens making democratic change. Watch the film.




Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood

2014 World Barista Championship
Symposium 2015 speaker Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood competes in his second World Barista Championship in Rimini, Italy, as the representative for the United Kingdom. Watch him compete.




Michael Sheridan

Six Lenses on Gender in Specialty Coffee Production
In the spirit of collaboration with CQI’s research on the issue of gender equity, Michael Sheridan of CRS Coffeelands identifies six lenses on gender in specialty coffee production. Read more.




Harry Evans

Cryptosexuality and the Genetic Diversity Paradox in Coffee Rust, Hemileia vastatrix
Harry Evans and colleagues set out to test their theory of where reproduction occurs within coffee rust and find the source of the high geneticdiversity of this critically important plant virus in this peer-reviewed scientific journal. Read more.

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2015 Fellowship Program Mon, 02 Feb 2015 22:51:57 +0000 We are pleased to offer a fellowship opportunity to attend the SCAA Symposium April 8-9, 2015, in Seattle, WA to a select number of individuals as determined by the application committee. This fellowship program, underwritten by S&D Coffee for the 2015 Symposium, is designed to give access to those who might not normally be able to attend this event for financial or other reasons.

The ideal Symposium Fellow is a future or current leader in specialty coffee, driving the future of coffee. They might be a barista who has pushed their coffeeshop forward, a producer co-op leader who has organized their community around coffee quality, a young entrepreneur who is building a company around a great idea, or a person working for an NGO who is making a special difference.

The fellowship is designed for people who lack the financial resources to attend Symposium on their own, but who belong in the environment of leadership, deeper understanding, and progress that Symposium provides.

DEADLINE: Please fill out and submit the questionnaire below by February 17, 2015. You will be notified of your fellowship status by March 4, 2015.

SCAA is offering a select number of fellowships covering the registration fee for the event. The recipients of the fellowship will be responsible for covering their own transportation and lodging expenses. Fellowships will be awarded as available. English is not required, but a working command of English will greatly enhance the experience. The Fellowship includes access to the SCAA Exposition, taking place April 9-12, 2015.

Apply for the Symposium 2015 Fellowship Award

2014 Fellowship Recipient Testimonials

Being a 2014 Symposium Fellow was quite the wonderland experience. I met coffee professionals from all over the world, more of the suit-and-business-card set than the portafilter-wielding ones. The lectures sparked my imagination and the salons inspired me to find my voice and speak confidently. My advice to future fellows is be ready to network in between lectures! Push yourself to introduce yourself first and get curious about other great minds in the coffee world.

Dawn Shanks, Barista, trainer and educator: Peregrine Espresso

Attending the SCAA Symposium last April is an unforgettable moment and invaluable experience. I met great coffee leaders from all over the world and had the opportunity to hear valuable experience insights from the industry leaders that I am inspired to share back home in Indonesia.

Mira Yudhawati, Sales and Marketing Manager: Caswells Coffee

The Symposium Fellowship was really a great learning and sharing experience. I deeply enjoyed meeting so many coffee professionals committed to specialty coffee and was very impressed to see the effort that was made by so many people from SCAA to put together such a wonderful event. I loved learning about so many diverse things in so few days–wonderful talks about sensory science still resonate in my mind. I feel very lucky to have attended the Symposium and the Expo, returning home with my all my senses and my heart full of coffee.

Cristina Martinez, Founder: Coffelov

It was quite the privilege to be chosen to participate in the 2014 Symposium Fellows program and rub shoulders with leaders in the industry. I was able to express a couple of items on my mind relating to industry practices in the break-out sessions, which was very valuable to me. There was an abundance of networking opportunities and it felt great to be among such a special group of industry peers. It was an honor, almost akin to being treated like royalty.

Tim Taylor, Owner: Ipsento Coffee

Symposium gave me hope that the leadership of the specialty coffee industry is invested in creating value for everyone in the supply chain, and feels the urgency of bringing in all members of our community to collaborate and share information to make specialty coffee truly sustainable. It felt like a luxury to have ample time to get together with others in our coffee community and talk about issues that affect us all.

Janice Nadworny, Co-Director: Food 4 Farmers

Please email with any questions.

Visit for more information.

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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 Nordsrtom 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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