Food & Culture

Coffee Lovers Unite at the 2017 Coffee Expo

A world of people nerded out to everything from nitro cold brew to sustainability in the coffee industry

By Stephen Strom April 26, 2017


Last week thousands of coffee lovers from around the world flooded Seattle’s Washington State Convention Center, making the pilgrimage to the nation’s coffee capital. The Global Specialty Coffee Expo, hosted by the nearly 30-year-old, industry nonprofit Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), gave coffee enthusiasts and experts the chance to learn about new industry trends and standards, and meet and mingle with other bean-crazed folk. Held April 20-23 this year, Seattle has hosted this annual trade event on and off since 1992.

Huge crowds filled the halls of the convention center to hear lectures about industry innovations and to learn about new coffee farming and processing techniques. Exhibition Hall overflowed with stalls of global products and exhibitors promoting almost everything coffee, tea or beer related. Programs like Funcafe (the Guatemalan coffee sector’s nonprofit for human development of the rural population) offered learning opportunities for attendees and consumers to help create a more sustainable industry for Guatemalan coffee farmers. There was even a performance by traditional Maasai dancers from Kenya, the featured coffee-producing region for this year’s event.

Trends that have steamrolled into coffee culture were highlighted in bold this year. If you’re tired of ordering your usual caramel latte, jump on the nitro cold brew train (cold brew infused with nitrogen) or the bourbon barrel aged coffee express. And the coffee beers flowed at a section called Uppers & Downers, dedicated to coffee beer where you could try award winning beers like the Gusto Cream Coffee Ale (a cream ale with medium roast beans from Caffe Umbria) by Georgetown Brewing Company. Another big attraction was the Roasters Village, letting one dive head first into coffee samples.

The culminating highlight, of course, was the showdown that is the U.S. Coffee Championships, a four-part competition consisting of the Barista Championship, Brewers Cup, Roasters Championship and Cup Tasters Championship on the sixth floor. A large crowd was ever-present; judged on espresso, a milk portion and a signature beverage, Seattle’s Chelsey Walker-Watson of Slate Coffee Roasters placed second in the Brewers Cup, the competition component that highlights the art of manual brewing.

The Barista Championship consisted of 36 contestants who fought their way through the qualifiers, and the winner Kyle Ramage of Durham, North Carolina will represent the U.S. at the World Championships taking place in South Korea later this year. Washington State had three contenders who made it to the championship round: Maxwell Mooney of Narrative Coffee in Everett, Sam Schroeder of Olympia Coffee Roasting Company in Olympia and Seattle’s Brandon Paul Weaver of Foreigner.

Photography by Peachy Juban-Notter

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