Posted by Chris O’Brien
The Washington D.C. Coffee Fest is scheduled for February 15-17, 2008, in the Convention Center. Tickets are $30 to enter the trade show where you’ll find more than a hundred exhibitors of coffee, tea, hot chocolate, all kinds of coffee-related equipment and supplies, coffee publications Barista Magazine and Roast Magazine. Hey, it even looks like my fair trade pals at Cafe Campesino will have a booth!
Bear in mind this event is intended for coffee professionals, not just casual coffee drinkers. So the roster of free educational classes includes enticing topics such as “Everything you’ve always hate about cash registers is about to change.” Sounds boring but I bet there are a lot of cafe owners who really do hate those damn machines!
In addition to the free classes, there are longer, more intense training workshops that carry an extra cost of entry (as much as $95 each) and require advance registration. Great sounding hands-on workshops cover a range of really nuts and bolts coffee business topics: coffee cupping tutorials; learning to blend beans; maintenance for espresso machines; gelato and smoothie workshops; barista trainings; the art of the free pour latte; and a lot more.
It doesn’t look like sustainability or economic justice issues are covered at all. Frankly, I find this a little surprising. In the past year, I’ve spoken on sustainability topics at a wide range of mainatream business conferences. From groups of government procurement professionals and educational buyers to associations of professional “meeting planners” and craft brewers (actually, those last two are coming up within the next couple months), sustainability is becoming a major theme at conferences of all kinds. Given that the coffee industry has so many justice and sustainability issues to deal with you’d think there would at least be a workshop or two on organic coffee or fair trade.
The lack of sustainability content not withstanding, this promises to be a very practical and worthwhile event for anyone interested in the business of beans. And, in addition to Cafe Campesino, it looks there are a handful of other exhibitors with an eco-angle: Sambazon is a fair trade fruit smoothie company who I met a couple times back when I worked at the Fair Trade Federation; Ecosleeve, and Eco-Products sound intriguing; the Rainforest Alliance has a booth which I will be sure to visit so I can investigate their sustainability certification a little closer; and I’ll be keen to visit the Counter Culture and Intelligentsia booths to learn more about their so-called “Direct Trade” business model that appears to be rivaling fair trade. (As an aside, I’ve been having a great online conversation with some of the Counter Culture folks over at the Coffee Habitat blog – a blog with highly recommended reading for anyone with a special interest in how coffee growing affects bird habitat and other concerns with ecosystem protection and management.)
Besides Washington D.C., Coffee Fest also occurs in Hawaii, Seattle, and Hong Kong. Check it all out right here.