Every year, hundreds of coffee professionals and enthusiasts come together for a week of competition, education, and discovery at the Re:co Symposium and Global Specialty Coffee Expo. This year’s event was held in what many consider to be the birthplace of the modern American coffee industry, Seattle, WA. We sent four members of our team to take it all in, including: Owner and Founder, Christian Johnson; Director of Retail Operations, Alyssa Lundberg; Director of Coffee / Green Buyer, Tony Querio; and Director of Education, Kathie Hilberg.
Broadly speaking, these events offer a multi-faceted glimpse into the future of specialty coffee. Whether it be discussions on sourcing practices, exciting new product designs, or developments in sensory analysis, there is a wide array of panels and workshops available to those who want to further their education and advance in the industry. Despite an extremely busy week, our Owner and Director of Retail Operations were able to take part in some of these conversations.
“Being relatively new to specialty coffee, the whole week was a whirlwind experience,” Lundberg said, “I was fortunate enough to attend seed-to-cup and cupping (tasting) classes, both of which were approximately 4 hours worth of listening, discussing, smelling, and tasting. That’s all in addition to time spent on the trade floor and visiting cafes! With the facilitators going so in-depth with these courses, you’re never able to get to everything, but the things we were able to attend were really eye-opening. It’s such an incredible experience to be surrounded by this network of coffee professionals, and a great opportunity to, in some ways, fast-track your way to a wider understanding of the industry."
While education and product design are definite pillars of the event, another major component of the week is the U.S. Coffee Championships, where baristas, brewers, roasters, and more test their skills for panels of judges and the public. These competitions are a great opportunity for individuals and companies to display the creativity and innovation that goes into great coffee service and production. Spyhouse had two representatives in this year’s competition: Director of Education, Kathie Hilberg, in the Barista Championship; and Director of Coffee, Tony Querio, who took 2nd Place in the Roaster Championship a year after winning the title.
"I prepared by spending a lot of time getting to know my coffee, and thinking about how the story of this coffee lined up with my passions in coffee service," Hilberg said, "This year I learned to have fun in competing, more so than I have in previous years. I would've liked to have done better, but I had fun and stressed less. It was a great season where I accomplished a lot, and I ultimately got to do it for the love of coffee rather than the need to feel successful or prove something."
These exciting opportunities for development are what make the Expo & Re:co Symposium so vital year after year. Time will tell on how the information and experiences from the week will translate back home, but the privilege of attending these events is something our team does not take for granted. Here’s looking forward to next time!