Writing from the airport again this time. The NCA conference was really interesting. This is a new endeavor for that organization, a supplemental yearly educational conference separate from their much larger annual trade show in Florida. There were just about 150 people there, which made for a great opportunity to really get to know people.
I spent much of Thursday and Friday morning serving up press pot after press pot of Cup of Excellence coffee from El Salvador. Willem Boot brought the coffee (sent up from San Salvador and then roasted in his lab in California) and I brought the press pots and water kettles and the manpower. The few die-hard specialty people in attendance (remember, this is the commercial-coffee side of the industry) made a beeline for our table and thanked us profusely for being there. But the best part was seeing how many of the others became converts by the end of the two days. They took little, searching sips, not sure what to expect. Most people seemed blown away... some even said they had never had such good coffee before. It reflected extremely well on the Salvadorans. So that was fun.
Willem Boot also gave a talk on laser spectrometry in coffee roasters, a technology pioneered by Fresh Roast Systems of San Francisco. I've yet to see one in operation (though I have played with the control software), but I have a feeling this is a technology we'll be seeing everywhere in the coffee industry very soon. I think it deserves its own post, but essentially this technology allows you to take Agtron readings during the roast instead of just after. Should lead to much more consistency across the industry.
I also gave a little talk on "building community in your coffee shop" centered around how attention to quality, with an emphasis on customer education (public cuppings, etc) can set you apart from the chains and the corner stores. In the afternoon, I helped lead the tour of French Quarter cafés, which was fun and involved eating about 4 pounds of beignets.
Bourbon Street on Friday night? Well, let's just say I enjoyed myself and made it back to my hotel in one piece (barely), but that once is enough for me, thank you. Too many blue-colored drinks, tourist-gouging prices, and general idiocy. Fun, though.
So, then, I'm taking off for Manta, Ecuador (via Quito) in a few minutes. I'll be judging the Taza Dorada competition. It promises to be very interesting. I hope to post while I'm on the road.