A New Understanding: My First Attendance at the SCAA

By Amanda Cooper

Claudia Gonzalez at the Food 4 Farmers booth at SCAA

“Not long ago, I began my journey in the high quality coffee world.  Always having been a coffee enthusiastic, it wasn’t until I joined Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. last year that I began to emerge myself on what it means to drink a high quality cup of coffee. From the moment the coffee cherry ripens to the time it reaches our customer’s hands, it takes a long chain of events and people to make it all come together.

I work with the supply chain community outreach group providing human and economic development financial support to our coffee and non-coffee supply chains.  As such, I am learning more and more about the challenges coffee farmers face, in particular during the “the thin months”, a time when food and other economic resources becomes scarce in the coffeelands.

In April 2013, I had the opportunity to attend the 25th annual Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) conference in Boston, Ma. The conference is the world’s largest gathering of the high quality coffee community.

The experience was grand; there was so much to take in all at once, the aroma of coffees from a multitude of countries at my fingertips, the most highly skilled of baristas, most importantly a community full of knowledge on high quality coffee, and interested in finding out more about the challenges coffee farmers in the coffee supply chain face.

As such, the conference was a suitable opportunity to attain more awareness on the pressing issues within coffee growing communities. In particular, what helped to build some of my new knowledge and awareness was the opportunity to speak to many of our coffee’s producers and hear directly from them some of the pressing issues in their communities.

A dominant theme I heard throughout the conference was la roya; a coffee rust fungus epidemic that affects Arabica coffee bean leaves and it’s currently spreading throughout Latin American coffee growing countries. For instance, in Guatemala, it is estimated to affect up to 70% of coffee crops, thus resulting in the government calling a state of emergency.

The SCAA held several informative workshops for the conference’s participants, quite a few based around food security and la roya. One particular workshop based on la roya, Leaf Rust: Testing our Resiliency as an Industry was an informative session into what la roya means for small scale coffee farmers and the high quality coffee industry.

Other workshop themes throughout the conference were food insecurity within small scale coffee farmers, coffee farmers and industry sustainability efforts and productivity for coffee production.

Attending the SCAA’s conference meant being present in a space where I could see the coffee supply chain play out all before my eyes, from the farmers that first harvest and picked the coffee cherries to the baristas that whip out the most inventive of designs.  This experience is not one to be missed for coffee lovers.

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