The conference is a big coffee shindig with labs, lectures, and a showroom floor, not to forget my personal favorite, the US Barista Competition, where I served as sensory judge and reported on the finals in 2006 and 2007. I also attended in 2005; at the time, the "cMembers" of the SCAA were alloted some lectures and workshops tailored to consumer interests, but support for such programs has disappeared (for more details, see my whining about the rejection of our presentation in Talk to the hand).Specialty Coffee Association of America wrote:The SCAA is the trade association for the specialty coffee industry, one of the fastest-growing food industries in the world. Specialty coffee — sometimes called "gourmet" or "premium" coffee — is grown in the world's most ideal coffee-producing climates and prepared according to exacting standards.
One of the SCAA's primary functions is to set the industry's standards for growing, roasting and brewing. Members of the SCAA include coffee retailers, roasters, producers, exporters and importers, as well as manufacturers of coffee equipment and related products.
Enough background... the 2008 conference is just around the corner. It will be held in May and you can read the details on the conference website. In years past, it was a 'must attend' event, but my enthusiasm for it has waned. In terms of the official program, only the barista competition and the showroom floor holds much interest for me. The reports I've heard about the espresso related sessions have been unflattering, though I understand it's improved with the assistance of the Barista Guild. There's also some cupping labs that could prove worthwhile and the volunteer hours for judging would pay for it.
The real reason I've gone the last couple years isn't about coffee, it's the people who I would hope to meet there. The online regulars that we read in these pages everyday are indeed interesting people in person; many have considerably different personas online than over a few beers (admittedly the same is true for me, as others no doubt could attest). And yet I hesitate to go again this year, simply because of the time away from home, my limited days of vacation, cost, and the sinking feeling that as a trade outsider, I'm just not welcome.
To compensate for the lack of SCAA's interest in attendees like myself, we once organized our own mini event. As Jim summarized, EspressoFest 2006 in Charlotte was the highlight of the conference:
For a brief moment I considered a go at EspressoFest 2008. More sane minds reminded me of the coordination efforts that went into that afternoon event, and the fact it would not be within a reasonable drive of a big sponsor like Counter Culture Coffee, who donated the facility, coffee, and equipment along with a gaggle of HB sponsors (the list of hands-on equipment and volunteers/sponsors was long!).another_jim wrote:It attracted Ted Simpson and Greg Scace to the first SCAA in four years, so I could finally meet them in person. "Newbies" Lino and Sean astounded all of us with their prototypes. We had the M3 and Chris's Macap MXK conical to fill the state of the art grinder bill. So espressofest actually had more hi-tech stuff of interest than the actual SCAA, where we could find the Schectermatic (Gimme had commandeered it), the GS3, and some old-school hi-tech -- Paul Pratt's GS1. Abe showed us all that he knows as much about pulling real perfect shots as virtual ones (where we all shine). Bob Yellin showed his cupping skills. Me, I demonstrated my need to shut up about cupping, shot pulling, or tech stuff when in this company.
This long preamble leads me to my question: As an espresso enthusiast, do you think is the SCAA conference worth your time and money? Why or why not?