The SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) held its 7th Annual Coffee Symposium in Seattle, Washington on April 8-9, 2015. This year, H.C. Valentine’s Product Manager David Strahl and Roastmaster Stacy Hawkins attended the Symposium. Below, David Strahl shares more about his experience.
The first SCAA Symposium was held just one year after I was hired to develop and launch the brand new H.C. Valentine micro-roasting company. H.C. Valentine’s Roastmaster and Operations Manager Stacy Hawkins and I have been involved in the Symposium ever since. We’ve enjoyed watching the Symposium grow as it now sells out to more than 450 specialty coffee lovers from all over the world.
This year’s Symposium started on the night of April 7th to pick up credentials and to have a cocktail with the other participants. I always enjoy this time to catch up with old friends in the coffee industry and to meet new people in the industry. The H.C. Valentine team enjoyed touring Seattle – a great coffee town full of coffee history and culture with many coffee micro-roasters in town.
SCAA Director Peter Giuliano and SCAA Executive Director Ric Rhinehart kicked off the 2015 Symposium. Both of these gentlemen do an excellent job putting on the world’s best coffee symposium and trade show! If you are in the coffee industry, you will be fortunate to talk to both of these specialty coffee gurus.
In addition to the members of the H.C. Valentine team who attended, we were proud to support members of Royal Cup Coffee and Tea, H.C. Valentine’s sister company. Royal Cup’s Executive Vice President Ben Pitts is the second Vice President of the SCAA board. Ben will become the SCAA’s President in 2016. Royal Cup plays a leadership role at the SCAA in many different ways. Royal Cup’s coffee experts teach roasting classes, coffee tasting classes and coffee brewing classes. We also have also have a board member who is part of the World Coffee Research.
The Symposium covers leading industry topics each year. 2015 was no exception with great topics including innovations in coffee and hot topics like sustainability and gender equity. A few topics that I found exceptionally interesting were:
Cutting Edge of Sensory Science
Lindsey Bolger, vice president of coffee sourcing and excellence at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, discussed the concept of a sensory lexicon, which is simply a set of words to describe the flavor of a product or commodity. Each lexicon is then applied or practiced using descriptive sensory analysis techniques. A lexicon, like a specific technical dictionary, provides a source list to describe a category of products, such as commodities (cheese, beef, fish, etc.) or finished products (bread, orange juice, coffee and chocolate). Although the descriptive panel generates its own list to describe the product array under study, a lexicon provides a source of possible terms with references and definitions for clarification. The lexicon will potentially help coffee cuppers rate coffee quality.
Water: The Invisible Driver of Coffee
Outside of well blended beans, the most crucial element of a good cup of coffee is water. Keith Flury, head of coffee research for Volcafe, has been a researcher for more than 13 years. Keith talked about water and its often short supply when processing coffee.
Many coffees are processed with water at origin, however many famers and processing facilities have limited water supplies. Water makes up approximately 98.5 percent of brewed coffee. Poor water quality negatively affects the taste of even the best coffee. Many food service coffee brewers invest in water filters to make each cup of coffee taste great in the cup!
The SCAA Symposium ended with discussion salons with expert panels to answer coffee industry questions. Royal Cup was proud to have Ben Pitts, vice president of hospitality and foodservice, on the panel of experts to answer questions. The SCAA Symposium provided great topics of discussing on the coffee industry again this year. It was fun to see and spend time socializing again this year with all the other passionate coffee experts. We can’t wait to be back next year!