We're off to the Specialty Coffee Association of America (scaa) conference in scintillating "Hotlanta" today. In a way, I wonder why I go. I count among the disaffected, I suppose. At one time "Specialty Coffee" really meant something, defining itself in opposition to commercial/industrial grade coffee. Now there are so many things crammed under the roof of Specialty, it's hard not to feel squeezed out. I don't know what we are ... Fourth Wave, Micro-Lot Specialists, DIY ... it always seems silly to think of such terms and even sillier to apply them. Maybe it's my history. Since I am from an artsy background, it reminds me of photography, which was (supposedly) my field of focus. Photography as a technical skill gives you a lot to talk about with other photo geeks, bracketing half-stops, and backlight compensation. But when it comes to the ideas, what you really do, well, you might be better off talking to your pet dog than most photo people; just because you share a method doesn't mean you have shared goals. It's like that with the coffee trade. You could sit next to a fellow coffee buyer on a plane trip to an origin country, and have nothing substantial to talk about but the weather. Of course, the opposite can be true to, which is why I still go to the $caa, armed with a dim hope. In reference to my crafty use of the $, I have to consider this: what furthers our ability to find better coffees to offer our customers, $3000 spent going to the scaa (Josh comes too), or $2500 spent on a great origin trip, cupping, visiting farms, understanding local issues, forming new relationships. For sweet maria's it's the later, of course. Two footnotes to this grumpy post: a. I volunteer to help roaster trainings and cupper trainings at scaa and I find that worthwhile for me and others, and b. the branch of the scaa called the Roasters Guild, especially the intensive RG retreat each year, is very, very worthwhile.
Incidentally, I will try to send a couple pictures to the web log from there 1. an image of the stupidest coffee product I find (there will be a lot of competition in this category) and 2. something new that is actually sensible and of good quality. That might be tough.