I wanted to title this piece, “this is SCA”, but then as always my mind began to extrapolate. Yes, I was at SCA last weekend with a bunch of other coffee folks from around the world, but the experience was much bigger than simply attending a trade show. And, it included so many people unable to arrive in Boston.
My feet always hurt at SCA. I start out on Wednesday or Thursday, optimistic, and by Friday I’m remembering every injury I’ve ever had including the time in my twenties that I played barefoot basketball with a bunch of tall Turkish dudes and one of them stepped on me and broke a bone that never healed.
Maybe it’s a sign of how great this SCA was for me that I hardly ever thought of my feet.
Here’s what I thought about:
How wonderful it is to walk into a party full of faces I don’t know, SCA badges I can’t quite read in time to avoid ogling, and lots of booze—and then see a friend! The explosion of peace that fills my heart. Ethan, Indira, Ali, Sarah, Alex, Dane, and so many more of you… I’m talking about you!
The way we all look like we’re glowing under florescent lights on the show flow. The flat carpet, unrolling for miles around us with booths sprouting like mushrooms full of hopes and dreams. Finding a plugin for my phone and ending up in an in-depth discussion of the Ethiopian coffee grading system. Descending the elevators into the Boston Convention Center feeling like a goddess. Too much caffeine and how crazy good the waffles smell when I walk by them.
Serendipity. I missed Timothy Hill’s workshop because I needed to meet with some of our producing partners, and boy was I bummed. Then, minutes before I left the Expo, while stopping to say hi to my friend Dakota, I had the chance to meet the man himself and get an impromptu UV light demonstration—and walked away with his personal flashlight.
The unabashed power of being part of a group of women assembled by the incredible Ashley Tomlinson. We spent an entire night talking about coffee hybrids, purchasing, marketing, science, travel, and education. I cherish the men in my life—so many of my male customers I count as real life friends—but to be a piece of this remarkable lineup of professionals just filled me with excitement and joy and hope for the future.
So many wonderful customer meetings. You know who you are—you’re the ones that took the time to connect with me in the midst of hordes of people, and talk about Ethiopian coffee, your business and my business, and coffee as a whole. You’re the ones that have me walking away energized and content, confident that we are on the right path and doing the right work the right way.
An impromptu board meeting over Indian food complete with diagrams, celebrations, problem-solving, and lots of goat curry.
I’ve now been in the coffee industry for over a decade, and my role has evolved massively in that time. I began as a barista and cafe manager, focused on coffee marketing, began working in operations and green coffee, and now manage one of the coolest Ethiopian-specific coffee importing companies in the world while consulting on coffee topics of all kinds. I have traveled to a number of coffee origins and countless roasting companies, lived in Ethiopia for a period of time and written about all of it.
However I’ve evolved, the thing I seek is the same no matter where I look.
The product is secondary. The origin is secondary. The money is necessary, still rather uninteresting. I seek genuine, healthy connection with coffee people everywhere—and I FIND IT EVERYWHERE!!!
So, my SCA recap is this: I love you. We are united. I am more confident than ever that I’m spending my life like precious currency and I’m buying the right thing. Together—you (buyers, baristas, cuppers, onlookers, exporters, producers, marketers, consumers, financiers, logistics people) and I are slowly shifting the direction of the coffee industry toward better business and fairer lives.
My idealism is both confirmed and tempered. I will NOT become jaded and bitter and concede that this is all “just business”. I will fight for equity, for myself and the people who trust me. I will welcome scrutiny and demand transparency from others.
SCA was great and now I’m back in the office, cupping tables full of preships with Michael while Zele processes lot after lot of beautiful Gr. 1 Ethiopian coffees to ship your direction.
Let’s keep it going, friends!