Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

the specialty coffee association of america

Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby sweetmarias on Thu Apr 02, 2009 8:47 pm

Seriously, the topic is a question.
And I mean no disrespect to our gracious host or anyone, but doesn't the idea of having a meeting of elites that you can buy your way into for $1000 kind of smell like , er, shit?

And I personally would care not a bit, because many things the SCAA does has little to do coffee as I see it, except that some of the programming is quite good, and relevant, including a last minute emergency session of the Ethiopia ECX.

Do those topics only concern those with an extra day and an extra $1000 to blow? Would that/should that not be part of regular SCAA programming which has already created so many pricing tiers and add-ons to make it a parody of inclusiveness?

My personal opinion is that we should not encourage this, should not attend, and should ask SCAA leaders a. whose idea was this b. explain how this does not rob the conference of good content and make everbodies entrance fee, airfare and hotel room worth that much less.
If you don't know what I am getting all bothered about: http://scaasymposium.org/

This is what I emailed Ric Rhinheart, with no response:
Subject: Re: Ethiopia Session

If this information is so pertinent (and I agree it is) why is it not part of a regular SCAA session???

Reserving important discussions for a separate supplement to the scaa, this symposium, seems to indicate that the conference itself is lacking focused discussions.

I agree, it is lacking, but what was the idea behind a special high cost "elite" conference? It appears that it only takes away from discussions that should be available to all who are interested, and a regular full admission to the conference should allow those concerned about the ECX to inform themselves about it, not just the few who can spare the extra 2 days and $1,000 .

Sorry, had to give my .02 cents...

Tom
____________



Hello,

I am very pleased to provide more details about our new session at our upcoming event, Symposium. This session will shed some light on the situation in Ethiopia as a result of recent changes in their system. We are delighted to have Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin, CEO of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX), along with Tadesse Meskela of Oromia Coffee Farmers Co-operative Union and Philip Schluter, Managing Director of Schluter S.A., to explain the system and what is happening on the ground as new laws go into effect. Together, we will be able to explore the implications for specialty coffee.

Please take a look at the <http://scaasymposium.list-manage.com/track/click?u=cd2360fa5907982c0ad4a55df&id=51c1abce56&e=92336850b0>updated schedule and if you haven’t already, I encourage you to <http://scaasymposium.list-manage.com/track/click?u=cd2360fa5907982c0ad4a55df&id=c7f006dddc&e=92336850b0>register now to take part in this important dialogue about the state and future of specialty coffee.

Best Regards,
let's cup through this ... together.
http://www.sweetmarias.com | http://www.coffeeshrub.com
sweetmarias
 
Posts: 130
Joined: Fri Jul 07, 2006 12:24 pm
Location: West Oakland
full name: thompson r owen
company: sweet maria's
: www.sweetmarias.com
: www.coffeeshrub.com

Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby Tim Dominick on Thu Apr 02, 2009 10:53 pm

Well Tom, it is a question that can't be honestly answered until it after it happens. You have to admit, it is kind of a loaded question and not likely to elicit much of a public response from the people you are really directing it towards.

At our company we had to flip a coin, we can barely justify 1 registration let alone 2, so in that respect I really do share some concerns with you regarding the cost.

My first reaction was wow, that seems really expensive and my second was why the F was Beth invited with a fancy card and I wasn't?

Then I started to think, without contempt, about what would lead the SCAA to this decision.

Have you spent much time in the past 5 years attending sessions/classes? Admittedly, I've forgone a few to catch up over lunch with old friends or sleep in a little later or head to a gathering hosted by an importer. I know I am not alone, it is where I see the elites. Collectively we have shot ourselves in the foot by making other events a priority and missing the boat on the classes put there for us.

I've been room host for downright compelling classes with, no shit, 5 people in the f-ing room. I was in one moderately interesting class with 3 people, two left during the class!! Classes that were "free" with the price of trade show admission, topics that were relevant and had some of the so-called "luminaries" attended, would have been ripe for great discussion. I felt really bad for the presenters and also know that the SCAA spent a fair amount of money to bring them in.

The classes that are biggest draws on the weekend tend to be focused on things like marketing via the Internet, writing a press release or managing your coffee house expenses for better profit. Workshops for roasting and espresso that charge $100 are almost always full, and you can bet most of the people who registered show up.

Quite honestly Tom, are these classes of much interest to you, me or most of the rest of coffeed? Conversely, are the cost of production at origin or alternative processing sessions really of much interest to the guy who is writing his business plan or wants to put the down payment on a sonofresco, a cool brass domed espresso machine and a gelato bar?

I think we blew it. We skipped one too many sessions, left one too many expensive conference rooms with $75 pitchers of water, translators, speakers who got comped airfare, hotel and per Diem to play to an empty room.

A natural reaction from event planners and the SCAA BOD armed with our feedback and attendance data might be: Create a sense of importance, send out invites and try to attract the "it" crowd and people who want to become part of the "it" crowd. Charge a larger sum, provide an interesting program and suddenly the people who register feel compelled to get their $'s worth and actually show up for the classes. Host it at the Omni which will cost less than using the convention center then it leaves more money for the classes that work during the weekend.

Anytime we see a big change the status quo it justifiably makes us uneasy and can elicit a contemptuous first response. Might it be best to reserve judgement?
Tim Dominick
 
Posts: 410
Joined: Wed Sep 28, 2005 6:20 pm
Location: Moonstone Beach
full name: Tim Dominick
company: Sacred Grounds Coffee
: www.sacred-grounds.com

Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby Peter G on Fri Apr 03, 2009 7:37 am

Hey Tom!

As one of the people whose idea Symposium was, I'm more than happy to explain the concept and rationale.

Tim correctly describes the state of how things had become at the SCAA conference. Great, interesting sessions were interspersed with informercial-type fluff, and attendance was spotty and random. In addition, we were operating under a model where speakers applied to speak, and were approved by the conference committee. In other words, the conference was driven by what people would volunteer to speak about. Often, people would speak about things consistent with their own business interests, which created a constant infomercial problem. People doing real, compelling work in coffee had less and less incentive to speak at the conference; it's hard to get interested in delivering a paper on fermentation experiments right before "How to incorporate Syrups in your cafe".

I was personally driven, as were a number of other SCAA volunteers/leaders, to make the SCAA an organization that fostered real coffee research, development, and information exchange. Our annual meeting (along with other events during the year) is an ideal place to feature that information exchange and foster the kind of development we need in coffee. Tom, you and others here have correctly identified that we in specialty coffee are way behind on the research and development. Simple questions which are often asked here about coffee biochemistry, extraction, roasting science, etc. are unexamined by the specialty sector. The cheap-coffee guys are doing their research, while we in the specialty field have not traditionally supported this kind of activity. It is my view that we need to put more focus on real analysis, education, discourse, research and development in coffee, and that the SCAA is the organization to do it.

The Symposium was conceived as a part of that overall strategy. While the SCAA exposition has turned into a come-one-come-all broadly appealing to the "big tent" of the SCAA show (which you describe as having "little to do with coffee as I see it"), we recognized we needed a focused place where people who are really serious and invested in great coffee could come and talk about it, apart from the exciting, but distracting, "big show" of the SCAA expo.

The dream is this: create a small, very focused symposium which addresses topical scientific, economic, and political issues in coffee and allows those who have significant investment in coffee to surround themselves with those who have similar investments and commitment. This exists just before the "show" of the exposition, to enable those involved in the symposium to also participate in the expo with their companies, or as teachers or volunteers.

One thing we discovered right away: in order to bring actual university academics to present at the symposium on chemistry or agricultural issues or economics, we must be prepared to pay an honorarium. This is one way that we as a society support academics: we pay them to think and do research. Anyway, if we wanted actual food scientists and economists and political scientists from organizations without commercial bias, we had to be able to provide a modest honorarium to these speakers. At the same time, we discovered that by paying this honorarium to speakers, we could expect a much higher standard of presentation than if we were asking them to speak for free. I know, I know, information should be free, but this is how teachers and researchers put food on their table, just like you and I put food on our table by selling coffee. It's only fair. Okay, so paying honoraria to every speaker would cost money.

Also, please remember, the $995 symposium registration fee includes 5 meals at the Omni hotel during the symposium. The idea here is to create an environment where we could focus on serious conversation and interchange about coffee, without distractions. A big part of that is sharing mealtimes, and using those times to continue the discussion and interaction. That's one of the great things about having an event like this at a place like the Omni, people can stay there, eat there, conference there, all under one roof. It really helps people focus, which is what we need in coffee right now: a place for the folks who have committed their careers to coffee to focus on the present and future of coffee.

You mentioned inclusiveness, and I will say that right now the roster of Symposium attendees includes a large and diverse cross-section of the coffee industry, from producers to NGOs to roasters, large and small. Really, once you factor in the meals, included expo registration, etc. it's actually a good deal!

I think it makes good sense to structure it in this way. But then I would think that, I was one of the people whose idea it was. I've been working all year on bringing this thing to fruition, and I am really passionate about it and I really think it will be great. Tom, I hope you reconsider attending; we've designed the symposium for people just like you! We could really use your voice there.

There's lots more I want to write about the economic questions Tom has raised, but I fear I've already written so much! I'm very open to questions, and I can go into my thoughts about how Symposium actually INCREASES the value of the SCAA, expo, etc. I'm happy to go into that if you wish, and also the logic of holding the ECX discussion at the Symposium.

I'm very open to everyone's questions and suggestions. By the way, we've committed to holding another Symposium at the Anaheim conference in 2010, and we plan on taking all the best features from Symposium 2009 and making 2010 an even more interesting event. This years attendees will be collaborators on creating the next one; making it ever closer to what the coffee industry needs and wants!

Ok, enough for now,

Peter G
Peter Giuliano
Specialty Coffee Association of America
Peter G
 
Posts: 367
Joined: Wed Jul 06, 2005 7:11 pm
Location: Los Angeles, CA
full name: Peter Giuliano
company: Specialty Coffee Association of America

Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby sweetmarias on Fri Apr 03, 2009 10:51 am

I hoped to get a good measured response, because honestly, i want someone to explain this to me. I just don't get it. The problem Tim, is when you explain it based on recent experiences and observations (which I share) it just leads me to the same conclusion: I feel more alienated by the SCAA than I ever did, even at my first one (Denver) which was wall-to-wall Granita machines, powdered drink concoctions, and not much about what is actually IN a cup of coffee at all.

So I appreciate your response but it doesn't change my sense that this is yet another step in the wrong direction. By the way, I have been emailing a few people privately about this for a week or two, and getting very much the same repsonse. I actually ASKED one of these luminaries NOT to go to the symposium, not to lend their name to something that is a further fracturing of SCAA and debases the general conference sessions. (They would not, it was a political thing since they were begged to go by ______) .

Really, I just want to have an honest discussion where someone can argue vigorously for the reason why this exists. It is not a personal attack on anyone - I believe in the dialectic...

Tom

Tim Dominick wrote:Well Tom, it is a question that can't be honestly answered until it after it happens. You have to admit, it is kind of a loaded question and not likely to elicit much of a public response from the people you are really directing it towards.

At our company we had to flip a coin, we can barely justify 1 registration let alone 2, so in that respect I really do share some concerns with you regarding the cost.

My first reaction was wow, that seems really expensive and my second was why the F was Beth invited with a fancy card and I wasn't?

Then I started to think, without contempt, about what would lead the SCAA to this decision.

Have you spent much time in the past 5 years attending sessions/classes? Admittedly, I've forgone a few to catch up over lunch with old friends or sleep in a little later or head to a gathering hosted by an importer. I know I am not alone, it is where I see the elites. Collectively we have shot ourselves in the foot by making other events a priority and missing the boat on the classes put there for us.

I've been room host for downright compelling classes with, no shit, 5 people in the f-ing room. I was in one moderately interesting class with 3 people, two left during the class!! Classes that were "free" with the price of trade show admission, topics that were relevant and had some of the so-called "luminaries" attended, would have been ripe for great discussion. I felt really bad for the presenters and also know that the SCAA spent a fair amount of money to bring them in.

The classes that are biggest draws on the weekend tend to be focused on things like marketing via the Internet, writing a press release or managing your coffee house expenses for better profit. Workshops for roasting and espresso that charge $100 are almost always full, and you can bet most of the people who registered show up.

Quite honestly Tom, are these classes of much interest to you, me or most of the rest of coffeed? Conversely, are the cost of production at origin or alternative processing sessions really of much interest to the guy who is writing his business plan or wants to put the down payment on a sonofresco, a cool brass domed espresso machine and a gelato bar?

I think we blew it. We skipped one too many sessions, left one too many expensive conference rooms with $75 pitchers of water, translators, speakers who got comped airfare, hotel and per Diem to play to an empty room.

A natural reaction from event planners and the SCAA BOD armed with our feedback and attendance data might be: Create a sense of importance, send out invites and try to attract the "it" crowd and people who want to become part of the "it" crowd. Charge a larger sum, provide an interesting program and suddenly the people who register feel compelled to get their $'s worth and actually show up for the classes. Host it at the Omni which will cost less than using the convention center then it leaves more money for the classes that work during the weekend.

Anytime we see a big change the status quo it justifiably makes us uneasy and can elicit a contemptuous first response. Might it be best to reserve judgement?
let's cup through this ... together.
http://www.sweetmarias.com | http://www.coffeeshrub.com
sweetmarias
 
Posts: 130
Joined: Fri Jul 07, 2006 12:24 pm
Location: West Oakland
full name: thompson r owen
company: sweet maria's
: www.sweetmarias.com
: www.coffeeshrub.com

Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby sweetmarias on Fri Apr 03, 2009 11:20 am

Peter G wrote:Hey Tom!

As one of the people whose idea Symposium was, I'm more than happy to explain the concept and rationale.

Tim correctly describes the state of how things had become at the SCAA conference. Great, interesting sessions were interspersed with informercial-type fluff, and attendance was spotty and random. In addition, we were operating under a model where speakers applied to speak, and were approved by the conference committee. In other words, the conference was driven by what people would volunteer to speak about. Often, people would speak about things consistent with their own business interests, which created a constant infomercial problem. People doing real, compelling work in coffee had less and less incentive to speak at the conference; it's hard to get interested in delivering aaper on fermentation experiments right before "How to incorporate Syrups in your cafe".

I was personally driven, as were a number of other SCAA volunteers/leaders, to make the SCAA an organization that fostered real coffee research, development, and information exchange. Our annual meeting (along with other events during the year) is an ideal place to feature that information exchange and foster the kind of development we need in coffee. Tom, you and others here have correctly identified that we in specialty coffee are way behind on the research and development. Simple questions which are often asked here about coffee biochemistry, extraction, roasting science, etc. are unexamined by the specialty sector. The cheap-coffee guys are doing their research, while we in the specialty field have not traditionally supported this kind of activity. It is my view that we need to put more focus on real analysis, education, discourse, research and development in coffee, and that the SCAA is the organization to do it.

The Symposium was conceived as a part of that overall strategy. While the SCAA exposition has turned into a come-one-come-all broadly appealing to the "big tent" of the SCAA show (which you describe as having "little to do with coffee as I see it"), we recognized we needed a focused place where people who are really serious and invested in great coffee could come and talk about it, apart from the exciting, but distracting, "big show" of the SCAA expo.

The dream is this: create a small, very focused symposium which addresses topical scientific, economic, and political issues in coffee and allows those who have significant investment in coffee to surround themselves with those who have similar investments and commitment. This exists just before the "show" of the exposition, to enable those involved in the symposium to also participate in the expo with their companies, or as teachers or volunteers.

One thing we discovered right away: in order to bring actual university academics to present at the symposium on chemistry or agricultural issues or economics, we must be prepared to pay an honorarium. This is one way that we as a society support academics: we pay them to think and do research. Anyway, if we wanted actual food scientists and economists and political scientists from organizations without commercial bias, we had to be able to provide a modest honorarium to these speakers. At the same time, we discovered that by paying this honorarium to speakers, we could expect a much higher standard of presentation than if we were asking them to speak for free. I know, I know, information should be free, but this is how teachers and researchers put food on their table, just like you and I put food on our table by selling coffee. It's only fair. Okay, so paying honoraria to every speaker would cost money.

Also, please remember, the $995 symposium registration fee includes 5 meals at the Omni hotel during the symposium. The idea here is to create an environment where we could focus on serious conversation and interchange about coffee, without distractions. A big part of that is sharing mealtimes, and using those times to continue the discussion and interaction. That's one of the great things about having an event like this at a place like the Omni, people can stay there, eat there, conference there, all under one roof. It really helps people focus, which is what we need in coffee right now: a place for the folks who have committed their careers to coffee to focus on the present and future of coffee.

You mentioned inclusiveness, and I will say that right now the roster of Symposium attendees includes a large and diverse cross-section of the coffee industry, from producers to NGOs to roasters, large and small. Really, once you factor in the meals, included expo registration, etc. it's actually a good deal!

I think it makes good sense to structure it in this way. But then I would think that, I was one of the people whose idea it was. I've been working all year on bringing this thing to fruition, and I am really passionate about it and I really think it will be great. Tom, I hope you reconsider attending; we've designed the symposium for people just like you! We could really use your voice there.

There's lots more I want to write about the economic questions Tom has raised, but I fear I've already written so much! I'm very open to questions, and I can go into my thoughts about how Symposium actually INCREASES the value of the SCAA, expo, etc. I'm happy to go into that if you wish, and also the logic of holding the ECX discussion at the Symposium.

I'm very open to everyone's questions and suggestions. By the way, we've committed to holding another Symposium at the Anaheim conference in 2010, and we plan on taking all the best features from Symposium 2009 and making 2010 an even more interesting event. This years attendees will be collaborators on creating the next one; making it ever closer to what the coffee industry needs and wants!

Ok, enough for now,

Peter G


Thanks - I completely agree on the diagnosis, and see the logic behind the Symposium from this perspective. It actually makes me sad to think the idea of addressing the low quality of recent presentations, the info-mercial character, was to abandon them to the general show attendees and create something else separate. I would not have been so distressed (and thanks to the explanations i feel much less so) if the symposium was simply an NCA style shmooze fest that focused on rubbing elbows. A lot of the language of it, how it is offered, appears to be that. And I have to question the idea of gathering together "coffee elites" ... we all know the vast majority of our innovation comes from the enthusiasm of newer generations of roasters, baristas, owners etc. But the idea of bringing academics in, much in the spirit of the Ohio sustainability conference which I am KICKING myself for missing, sounds promising. Again, it seems to me like the original promise of sessions and workshops during the conference. Why abandon the hope that those sessions could not have serious academic presentations? For me, all my hope for a meaningful meeting of coffee people lies in the Roaster's Guild Retreat. If I didn't feel compelled to walk the floor of SCAA with the slight hope of some actually decent new item that I didn't know about, and if there were not a few friends, a few exporters, a couple producers who I can see there, the reasons to go are melting into an indistinguishable pile of goo. There will be the barren downtown, the fake generic british-or-irish bar, and a mediocre salad bar or two. Hotlanta? Anaheim? Why would any small roaster not take that $1500 or $2000 bucks and head to Panama, El Salvador, CR, and actually learn something about coffee. I totally agree that the conference needs to be reinvented. And Tim, I can't reserve judgment on the Symposium because I won't be there. The people I know who are going are not paying either, they were asked (or were committed) to volunteer.

Thanks P and T for taking the time to explain - I don't like it but I think I get it.

Tom
let's cup through this ... together.
http://www.sweetmarias.com | http://www.coffeeshrub.com
sweetmarias
 
Posts: 130
Joined: Fri Jul 07, 2006 12:24 pm
Location: West Oakland
full name: thompson r owen
company: sweet maria's
: www.sweetmarias.com
: www.coffeeshrub.com

Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby Robert Goble on Fri Apr 03, 2009 12:01 pm

sweetmarias wrote:Thanks P and T for taking the time to explain - I don't like it but I think I get it.

Tom

Can I just say that I'm super impressed with Tom's question, the two responses, and in particular - Tom's response here. Great discourse - civil and intelligent respect for peers -- potential hot button and emotionally loaded topic, with real exchange of ideas and opinions.... great stuff. Totally inspired.
Robert Goble
Elysian Coffee
Robert Goble
 
Posts: 551
Joined: Tue Aug 24, 2004 11:13 pm
Location: Vancouver, BC
full name: Robert Goble
company: Elysian Coffee
: www.elysiancoffee.com

Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby Tim Dominick on Fri Apr 03, 2009 1:36 pm

I'm going as a volunteer because I would not have been able to afford the price of admission. I don't begrudge the price, it is simple economics that require the SCAA to charge $995. I must admit Beth felt obligated to attend as a representative of the roasters guild EC. These two things aside, I suspect we would have put our money towards an origin trip. Given the choice between one or the other, who wouldn't rather spend a week on the farms?

Tom, we agree on more of the nuts and bolts and seem to differ on the spirit or intention of the event itself. I'm distrustful of marketing in general and it is most certainly an inexact science. I also tend to ignore or tune it out, therefore I'm not very sensitive to some of the things that triggered your response. Terms that attract one group repel another and themes can easily alienate the exact crowd the organizers had hoped to draw. I see this happened to you. I'll miss you there because the industry stands to gain a lot from your experiences and opinions.

What I see happening on the weekends at SCAA is the hard work of the up-and-coming people you mention. Volunteering and staffing the classes give us a chance to learn by teaching. scraping cups with schooly or wendy is some people's first chance to meet the real heart of the association . Quite frankly volunteering also tires us out and scheduling conflicts preclude us from attending the classes that offered during the weekend.

The gulf between beginner and veteran is getting wider. This is going to continue as the industry evolves and the knowledge base grows. It does require special attention to prevent the problem of exclusion or alienation. Part of the growth process is dealing with this idea of inclusion without either side having to settle for less.

For me, all my hope for a meaningful meeting of coffee people lies in the Roaster's Guild Retreat.


I think there is quite a bit of truth to this statement and I appreciate your optimistic outlook on the event itself. The roasters guild origin trips would also be on my list of good investments. Somehow I suspect they would drive you up the wall, perhaps a bit too much structure for a guy who likes to wander off the tour. All that aside, for $1500 it is a great learing experience for the younger mates among us.

Truthfully, the events at conference that will help an up and coming roaster the most will be the RG classes. Thankfully they are taught by many of the same people who are the target market for symposium, so in a sense there is some continuity between the two events.

We'll miss you, but I respect your decision and your efforts to raise awareness of the potential downside to this event.
Tim Dominick
 
Posts: 410
Joined: Wed Sep 28, 2005 6:20 pm
Location: Moonstone Beach
full name: Tim Dominick
company: Sacred Grounds Coffee
: www.sacred-grounds.com

Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby Peter G on Fri Apr 03, 2009 3:43 pm

Tom-

Yeah, I see where you are coming from. It's been tremendously difficult to figure out how we were going to summarize and promote this event- I can see how you might have gotten the impression that it was an NCA-type event what will all the talk about "executives", "high-level", etc. The truth is, we want the whole community there- big companies and small. The key factor is being serious about coffee and invested in our shared future.

Again, it seems to me like the original promise of sessions and workshops during the conference. Why abandon the hope that those sessions could not have serious academic presentations?


I think we have evolved to a point where our industry is very diverse. Indeed, the initial idea of the SCAA conference circa 1990 was to have it be "the" meeting for the specialty coffee industry. Things have changed a lot since then. Most particularly, the needs of someone attending their 1st conference will be different than someone attending their 3rd, or their 7th, or their 10th. The first time SCAA attendee wants basic information, perhaps about opening a cafe or wants to find vendors. The next year, one might take a roasting or cupping workshop, to develop skills; or attend a session about marketing or whatever. The symposium was developed for people like you (and me) who have been involved in conferences for years, and are ready for advanced topics like coffee science, research, politics, etc. (the ECX, wet-processing in Sumatra, financing models at origin, cost of production on the coffee farm, etc.) So, we recognized that our industry was so diverse that we needed our conference to be relevant at different levels for different audiences.

So, you ask, why not have those different levels of content all at the same place? Why not have the "advanced" sessions in one room, and the "beginner" sessions next door? Here's why: the people who are most interested in the "advanced" sessions are the ones teaching the roasting and cupping workshops; they're running or competing in the WBC or USBC, they are meeting with customers or working a booth at the trade show. By putting the Symposium at a separate (but nearby) time and place, it allows a person to attend the symposium and still participate fully in the SCAA conference/tradeshow/etc.

And, as for the money part, I think it is fair to expect attendees to pay for what they attend. A roaster might pay for roasting and cupping seminars, and use his access to the trade show floor to meet some coffee importers (like you describe) This would cost him $95 for the SCAA expo pass, and $100 for each class, making it $295 in total. The first time coffeehouse owner who wants to walk the floor? Expo pass, $95, Beginning Espresso, $100. A serious, long-term coffee professional? $995 for the Symposium 2-days with meals, plus gives access to the Expo and all its classes and meetings (not workshops). I actually think it's the fairest way to do it- to focus the sessions we deliver on particular interest groups, and have them pay for what they attend.

And, just so's you know, we have improved the conference/expo sessions. We've tightened them up a bit (offering fewer) but trying to increase the quality overall. Plus, the expo pass which used to cost $295 now costs $95. Infomercial type sessions are now happening on the trade show floor, in a new "tricks of the trade" format. (nothing wrong with infomercials, you know, just as long as people know what they are).

You mentioned the Roasters' Guild retreat, which is a wonderful thing, focused very much on roasters and their needs. The Symposium is built to appeal not just to roasters, but roasters and producers and the scientific community and the academic/research community and the NGO community and the sustainability community and equipment manufacturers and the financial sector- all within the specialty coffee industry. I don't consider either group "elitist", just different focuses.

Tom, you're a well-traveled, opinionated coffee leader. You're one of the best coffee buyers, communicators, and innovators out there. Again, I hope you reconsider; we could use your voice at the table. Many of the newer generation of roasters, baristas, owners etc. will be there, and we will all miss you. Tim, I look forward to working the event with you.

Just so everyone knows some highlights for me:

-Tony Marsh will be talking about his work in Sumatra, explaining the wet-hulling process and its history, and the results of his coffee variety assessment in Aceh
-Tim Shilling will be talking about the quality experiments he led in Rwanda, dealing in fermentation, demucilaging, cherry holding, etc.
-Dr. Peter Baker will be talking about the effects of climate change on coffee, John Vendeland will be talking about the status of GMOs in coffee, and we'll be working together to develop policy positions of the Specialty Coffee industry on these issues
-there will be an exploration of Rwandan coffees brewed in Chemexes and Vacpots by Trish Rothgeb and Sarah Kluth; a discourse on the cappuccino by Nick Cho and Emily Oak, and an exposition of single-origin Sumatran espressos from Ellie Matuszak and Danielle Glasky.
-Dr. Terry Acree, food scientist from Cornell, will explain the function of taste from a biomechanical perspective.
-There will be a roundtable that includes a variety of coffee leaders, from the young-and-innovative to the older-but-still-innovating companies.

Not trying to advertise (too late for that anyway) but just illustrating the point: I think we are doing a great job of incorporating innovation and academic discourse into this thing.

Great discussion,

Peter G
Peter Giuliano
Specialty Coffee Association of America
Peter G
 
Posts: 367
Joined: Wed Jul 06, 2005 7:11 pm
Location: Los Angeles, CA
full name: Peter Giuliano
company: Specialty Coffee Association of America

Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby Marshall on Fri Apr 03, 2009 8:14 pm

Peter has touched on the advantages to newcomers of splitting out the “elite” programs into a separate event. I’d like to say a little more about it, because those mom and pop shop owners deserve more of our sympathy than they sometimes get around here.

I get calls from shop owners that would tear your heart out. They bought shops without reading the lease. They chose business names without checking the trademark lists. They don’t know how to raise money. They don’t know what they’re allowed to ask when they hire an employee. I usually get these calls when it’s too late to do anything but empathize.

Last year I was asked to give a no-extra-cost presentation on legal issues for new shop owners. I was glad to do it. I think the people who attended got a useful 90 minutes of information. The problem was there were only about 20 people in the room. I did a little research to find out why. The answers mostly came down to money. Too many of the people who most needed the help couldn’t afford to come, either because the $295 entry fee (X2) was too high, or the Conference was too long (which meant more motel cost, more meals out, more time away from the shop).

So, although I had zero input into the decision, I thought separating the beginner programming from the advanced and having a shortened $95 Exposition was a great idea.
Marshall Fuss
Lawyer
Pasadena, California
Member SCAA
Marshall
 
Posts: 505
Joined: Thu Oct 06, 2005 10:21 pm
Location: Pasadena, CA
full name: Marshall Fuss
company: Marshall R. Fuss, Attorney at Law
: http://www.linkedin.com/in/fusslaw

Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby Edwin Martinez on Fri Apr 03, 2009 9:49 pm

Peter G wrote: It is my view that we need to put more focus on real analysis, education, discourse, research and development in coffee, and that the SCAA is the organization to do it.


I wholeheartedly agree with most of this statement, but have uncertainty about how some may interpret the last phrase. None of the above are small tasks and their progress is hard to measure. The larger the organization the more difficult it is to have laser focus on anything. Particularly an association funded by members with such varied interest.

If anything it makes sense the SCAA be burdened to give compelling facts that clarify why these things are important. We all stand to benefit from this. I guess I see the SCAA can have a more valuable role in the future by facilitating these things rather than trying to do them.

In my opinion SCAA's best value is it's ability to connect people to each other and to information. To be inclusive in it's conversations. Personally the Symposium would have more value to me if people like Tom were a part of the conversation. This would require Tom (who I know is not alone in this) to have a desire to participate.

To avoid speculation...

Tom, what would this Symposium look like to offer a value that you just couldn't pass up?
Edwin D. Martinez
Edwin Martinez
 
Posts: 157
Joined: Thu Oct 27, 2005 6:40 pm
Location: Bellingham,WA/Guatemala

Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby Andrew Hetzel on Sat Apr 04, 2009 11:17 am

The big problem for me was the timing. I certainly would have attended if the program was set later in the year (for example, exposition in April / May, symposium in October / November), but adding another 2 days on top of my existing 6-day commitment was just too much of a burden. In addition to the time away from my home and office, it seems unlikely that I would be able to concentrate on potentially interesting topics while hurriedly planning hundreds of little last-minute details for the weekend's events that I have either volunteered or am paid to organize.

Splitting the two apart may also go far to avoid the perception that the symposium is a separate track of programs for the "real" coffee people by not forcing some (many) participants to choose between the two. Because of its smaller size and housing requirements, the independent symposium could be moved to a more convenient location since you would no longer be tied to the needs of the larger conference and its audience.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to finishing my flavoring syrup sales pitch for all of the rubes that will be sitting in on my panel discussion...
Andrew Hetzel
Cafemakers, LLC
Andrew Hetzel
 
Posts: 95
Joined: Tue Dec 20, 2005 12:50 pm
Location: Kamuela, HI
full name: Andrew Hetzel
company: Cafemakers, LLC
: http://cafemakers.com
: http://twitter.com/HIflyer

Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby Mike Ebert on Mon Apr 06, 2009 12:55 pm

As conference chair, I should have chimed in sooner, but its been a interesting week or so for me, sorry!

I'd like to explain the 50,000 foot view a little more. In my minds eye, conference needed a drastic overhaul right after Seattle in 2005. At that point I believe we hit critical mass with the "old" version of conference, for all the reasons Peter has already stated. As we started to formulate our idea to shift from a one size fits all conference and exhibition to a Symposium and Exposition format, we were very clear that this was going to be a 2-3 year shift, that this was not going to be accomplished in one year, that there were too many problems and more importantly, opportunities to address.

Symposium and our reasons behind doing it has been addressed by Peter very well already, so I won't rehash that topic. The only thing I would add is we did give serious consideration to moving it to a different time of the year altogether, but felt that was too drastic the first year. This option is still on the table moving forward, so, I'd love feedback on that.

But I want to focus on Expo here - for the change I envisioned is only half-complete, and it touches upon some of the problems and conerns mentioned here. In Minneapolis, 130+ "educational sessions" were offered, which were culled from over 300+ that were recieved when the "Call for presentors" went out. The team that picked these were the conference committee, which is essentially a new committee every year. This is how its been done for years. I mean no disrespect to anyone who served on those committees, or any past conference chairs, this process served us well for years. But there has never been group of people that sticks together for a few years and makes a concerted effort to look at developing certain subjects, instructors, content and the like, let alone dig deep into surveys and find out what attendees really want.

I had wanted to attempt to change this year, but realized we did not have the time or proper mechanisms in place to accomplish this task. But, we did do things a bit differently - for starters, we decided what we would like to see offered first, then went thru the "call for presentors" and culled it down from there. We ended up with 36 sessions - which are all top notch, cutting edge stuff, the cream of the crop so to speak. We asked some presentors to team with others, some to slightly modify what they wanted to present, all in the hope of creating a more well rounded offering of sessions.

The longer term solution is already underway - in the past, our training committee has only focused on skill building workshops - or in other words, classes that have been written jointly by numerous SCAA members, vetted over years of conducting them, and typically cost extra, but are a part of a certification of some sort. Going forward I am asking them to take over all educational sessions at conference, which will hopefully achieve two things; one, get a team of volunteers to spend 2-3 years working on upgrading these sessions, but also, intergating them into the overhaul educational, or professional development strategy of the SCAA. The goal of this is to make Expo the best $100 bang for the buck around in specialty coffee, to upgrade it bring together the veterans, the newbies and everyone in between, creating the dialogue along the way that is the most essential part.

The symposium then becomes what Peter has stated - this is the event where he goes to learn instead of teaching and volunteering, where I go, where hopefully, even Tom, you will some day. Where we get together and discuss the larger and more indepth issues.

But, I know, proof is in the pudding - and I hope the pudding is as good as I suspect it will be!
Mike Ebert
Mike Ebert
 
Posts: 38
Joined: Fri Aug 04, 2006 8:34 am
Location: Elk Grove Village, IL
full name: Mike Ebert
company: Alterra Coffee Roasters
: www.alterracoffee.com

Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby sweetmarias on Tue Apr 07, 2009 11:10 am

These responses have opened up a good dialogue, and I can see how a lack of continuity on the conference planning, the vetting of presentations, the lack of a year-to-year "development approach to topics has taken its toll on the quality.
I want to go back to the idea that separating this from the conference, and the high cost, is something I still find irksome.
Was the idea of having these symposium sessions peppered throughout the conference discussed? What about the advantage of spreading the cost out among all conference attendees - what would that be ... $5 each?
It sounds good to have a small room with 20, 30, 50 people, who can ask questions of a presenter, but (in my opinion) if a topic is really good, there's nothing wrong with 250 people cramming a room to hear a hot topic, the ECX for example. I mean, you might have gone to a small college with 15 people in a class, but there is a lot of energy and enthusiasm in an SRO lecture all at a UC school, when many people have acknowledged that a professor or topic needs to be heard. At least, it's not something I would dismiss out of hand, and we all agree the sessions at the conference need to be enriched.
Beyond particular ideas on the symposium topic, I guess Mike I am wondering how this all got decided, who had input. It seems to affect the entire body of SCAA participants, not just those attending the symposium. Its a different direction for the conference. Who decided on this particular path? -Thanks ...
let's cup through this ... together.
http://www.sweetmarias.com | http://www.coffeeshrub.com
sweetmarias
 
Posts: 130
Joined: Fri Jul 07, 2006 12:24 pm
Location: West Oakland
full name: thompson r owen
company: sweet maria's
: www.sweetmarias.com
: www.coffeeshrub.com

Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby Shawn H on Tue Apr 07, 2009 1:08 pm

Tom,

I may be able to answer part of your question- The thought behind the separation of the Symposium form the exposition was mainly because there are a lot of people that volunteer, teach classes, and have a booth that they have to set up, man, and tear down during the show. This tends to keep a lot of people that would love to see those classes from attending them. I know a lot of people that go to the show every year and say they wanted to sit in on a class, but couldn't- they had to watch the booth, or teach.

So the question was- "What can you do to allow those people to have an opportunity to be there" and the answer was to disconnect it from the exposition so people could participate in the Symposium without being distracted by their booth or have to leave early to set up for the class they are teaching.
Shawn H
 
Posts: 10
Joined: Thu Apr 02, 2009 12:18 pm
full name: Shawn Hamilton
company: Java City
: www.javacity.com

Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby Mike Ebert on Tue Apr 07, 2009 1:30 pm

Shawn is exactly right with the why separate them.

As to who made the final call -

Ric and I started pitching this 18 months ago - we started with a small group, worked our way to the Roasters Guild, Barista Guila, International Relations Council, all the standing committees, etc. As the group got bigger, we began to have them reach out to close freinds and associates. Needless to say, my biggest concern about going forward was not that we had a bad reaction to it, in fact, quite the opposite, we did not get many negatives at all. Ultimately, we put it to the board and decided to move forward.

Now that said, I will not proclaim that this is the only way to do it in the future, as I said earlier, this is a 2-3 shift. While at the moment we are planning the same format for Anaheim, we need to wait and hear the feedback before making any final decisions.
Mike Ebert
Mike Ebert
 
Posts: 38
Joined: Fri Aug 04, 2006 8:34 am
Location: Elk Grove Village, IL
full name: Mike Ebert
company: Alterra Coffee Roasters
: www.alterracoffee.com

SCAA Symposium

Postby sweetmarias on Tue Apr 07, 2009 2:07 pm

Gotcha - it makes sense.
I volunteer for 2 roasting classes on Friday to try to leave the weekend open to meet people, and for the show floor. Tim brought this up --- if you are involved in SCAA or RG, the conference is very hard to manage, and conversely for those not volunteering it is a lot easier to attend sessions etc. But where would it all be without volunteers etc? I want to add that the entire conference is much, much improved over my first one, and there is much more about coffee in general. Workshops and RG activities, cuppings etc, have added a lot to the conference in that respect. In some ways, symposium as a totally separate event funded independently by attendance fees makes increasing sense. People can simply opt out and know their SCAA dues are not paying for it, but it can also be a place to incubate seminars that could be added to regular conference programming. In that way it actually enriches the conference, rather than robbing anything from it. Again, it is good to have a discussion of this - seems like it would help to vet these ideas on web boards like this while they are in the formation stages.

Shawn H wrote:Tom,

I may be able to answer part of your question- The thought behind the separation of the Symposium form the exposition was mainly because there are a lot of people that volunteer, teach classes, and have a booth that they have to set up, man, and tear down during the show. This tends to keep a lot of people that would love to see those classes from attending them. I know a lot of people that go to the show every year and say they wanted to sit in on a class, but couldn't- they had to watch the booth, or teach.

So the question was- "What can you do to allow those people to have an opportunity to be there" and the answer was to disconnect it from the exposition so people could participate in the Symposium without being distracted by their booth or have to leave early to set up for the class they are teaching.
let's cup through this ... together.
http://www.sweetmarias.com | http://www.coffeeshrub.com
sweetmarias
 
Posts: 130
Joined: Fri Jul 07, 2006 12:24 pm
Location: West Oakland
full name: thompson r owen
company: sweet maria's
: www.sweetmarias.com
: www.coffeeshrub.com

Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby Christopher Schooley on Tue Apr 07, 2009 6:32 pm

For the record, I am volunteering during Symposium and Conference. I like the idea of holding future Symposiums separate from Conference. It would add more weight to the event itself, and I think address a lot of the concerns posted here. It could maybe even be an event held in a producing country creating even more value for the price. I do believe that the intentions behind Symposium were to create a relevant and meaningful event. I also strongly agree with Tom's idea of the discussions from Symposium being presented at Conference or in some way being made available to the entirety of membership, maybe through a publication or posting on the SCAA site or maybe on a Symposium Panel discussion open to all Conference attendees. There are going to be a lot of important issues discussed at this deal and while attending Symposium means that you get to be part of the discussion, I am hopeful that the resulting information is disclosed to all SCAA members in some way. Not at all saying that this is or isn't being planned or considered, just saying that the real power of this event will be in how it reverberates.
http://www.coffeeshrub.com
Armed to the teeth with secret words
Christopher Schooley
 
Posts: 165
Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2007 6:25 am
Location: Fort Collins, Colorado
full name: Christopher Schooley
company: Coffee Shrub
: www.coffeeshrub.com

Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby Tim Dominick on Wed Apr 08, 2009 9:26 am

I have no qualms with holding symposium separately from expo however setting it apart may just as easily create and/or further the illusion of elitism.

I'm certain anything done for the first time always leaves a great deal of room for improvement. The people who conceived this concept see to have that in mind and the transitional period between the old and the future requires input from all the stakeholders. I trust the leadership to listen to our concerns and feedback and I trust them to implement our suggestions .
Tim Dominick
 
Posts: 410
Joined: Wed Sep 28, 2005 6:20 pm
Location: Moonstone Beach
full name: Tim Dominick
company: Sacred Grounds Coffee
: www.sacred-grounds.com

Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby phaelon56 on Wed Apr 08, 2009 10:18 am

Christopher Schooley wrote:For the record, I am volunteering during Symposium and Conference. I like the idea of holding future Symposiums separate from Conference.


Good points by all and it's such a pleasure to see civil discourse that evolves in a meaningful and fruitful way.

Chris beat me to it but I agree that separating the two events might make sense. Can't speak for others although come comments above seem to mirror my situations....

1) Difficult to take too many days in a row away from home base for a variety of reasons - but if it is split up and scheduled at different times of the year it might be far easier.

2) I can find time and budget this year for the RG Retreat and an origins trip (which would be my first and is high on my wish list) or I could axe one of those and go to the conference - but no way can I do all three.

3) Chris's thought about moving it to different producing countries in different years is a splendid one. I see tremendous value for both producers and those if us in other parts of the chain to have opportunities to attend a Symposium. And I'll guess that far more of us at this end can afford to travel to other countries than can most of the folks at the producing end.

4) It's conceivable that the overall cost of the Symposium might be kept the same or perhaps even reduced by a few percent if it was split off - or is that flawed thinking on my part?
Owen O'Neill
Syracuse NY

Phaelon Coffee
and
New York Central Coffee Roasters
phaelon56
 
Posts: 736
Joined: Tue Sep 20, 2005 5:58 am
Location: Syracuse, NY
full name: Owen O'Neill
company: Phaelon Coffee / New York Central Coffee

Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby gscace on Mon Apr 20, 2009 11:15 am

Peter:

Nice response. As a person who writes scientific papers and presents them on a regular basis to conferences, I have a coupla comments: I'm abbreviating your quoted comments so that just the relevant ones appear for reference.

Peter G wrote:Hey Tom!

As one of the people whose idea Symposium was, I'm more than happy to explain the concept and rationale.

In addition, we were operating under a model where speakers applied to speak, and were approved by the conference committee. In other words, the conference was driven by what people would volunteer to speak about. Often, people would speak about things consistent with their own business interests, which created a constant infomercial problem.


Comments - I've felt for a while that I could offer something useful on measurements, standards, and their use in implementing quality systems for coffee, but the selection of talks was done waaaaay in advance through a rather mysterious-to-me process unlike what is usually done. The usual procedure for conferences that i attend is that a call for papers gets published well in advance of the submission deadline, with the organizers specifying several areas of interest to the community and soliciting abstracts for papers and talks on these topics. The authors of the submissions learn shortly after the deadline if their work is accepted, and then they have several months to produce a paper on the subject. Depending on the size of the conference, there may be more quality work submitted than there is time to present it, so conference organizers often have poster sessions as well as speakers. Authors whose work is not deemed worthy of a talk, get to present their work in poster form. All of the accepted papers get peer reviewed and published as proceedings of the conference. Peer reviewing and aggressive editorial policies help prevent advertisements from masquerading as real work. The proceedings are usually handed out to all of the conference attendees as part of what you get when you pony up yer fee, and they are also sold through the organization (SCAA here), so that the information gets disseminated to those who want it (presumably the members who didn't get to go to the conference for whatever reason).

Was there a proceedings for this year's deal and can we buy it?

Peter G wrote:I was personally driven, as were a number of other SCAA volunteers/leaders, to make the SCAA an organization that fostered real coffee research, development, and information exchange. Our annual meeting (along with other events during the year) is an ideal place to feature that information exchange and foster the kind of development we need in coffee. Tom, you and others here have correctly identified that we in specialty coffee are way behind on the research and development. Simple questions which are often asked here about coffee biochemistry, extraction, roasting science, etc. are unexamined by the specialty sector. The cheap-coffee guys are doing their research, while we in the specialty field have not traditionally supported this kind of activity. It is my view that we need to put more focus on real analysis, education, discourse, research and development in coffee, and that the SCAA is the organization to do it.


I'm hopeful that the SCAA wil become just this sort of an organization. Is there now a plan for what research is going to be funded by SCAA? Who is identifying research needs?

Peter G wrote:The dream is this: create a small, very focused symposium which addresses topical scientific, economic, and political issues in coffee and allows those who have significant investment in coffee to surround themselves with those who have similar investments and commitment. This exists just before the "show" of the exposition, to enable those involved in the symposium to also participate in the expo with their companies, or as teachers or volunteers.

One thing we discovered right away: in order to bring actual university academics to present at the symposium on chemistry or agricultural issues or economics, we must be prepared to pay an honorarium. This is one way that we as a society support academics: we pay them to think and do research. Anyway, if we wanted actual food scientists and economists and political scientists from organizations without commercial bias, we had to be able to provide a modest honorarium to these speakers. At the same time, we discovered that by paying this honorarium to speakers, we could expect a much higher standard of presentation than if we were asking them to speak for free. I know, I know, information should be free, but this is how teachers and researchers put food on their table, just like you and I put food on our table by selling coffee. It's only fair. Okay, so paying honoraria to every speaker would cost money.


FWIW I've never received any compensation for papers I've written and talks I've given at any of the scientific conferences I've ever attended, and that's pretty typical. The usual deal is that authors get a price break on the conference fee. Maybe you have to pay someone's way when you're trying to get your conference viewed as a serious venue for publishing your work, but that ain't the usual case for established conferences.


Peter G wrote:I'm very open to everyone's questions and suggestions. By the way, we've committed to holding another Symposium at the Anaheim conference in 2010, and we plan on taking all the best features from Symposium 2009 and making 2010 an even more interesting event. This years attendees will be collaborators on creating the next one; making it ever closer to what the coffee industry needs and wants!


What are the topics for next year? Is there a deadline for submission / Call for Papers?


FWIW, I used to be a pretty serious sailboat racer, and my wife and I were on the US Sailing Team for a while. Occasionally we would be asked by various sailing clubs to put on clinics. At first we did it for free as part of growing the sport. Folks would show up late, not pay attention, leave early, not do the on-the-water drills, whatever you can think of. People quit that crap as soon as we started charging a couple hundred dollars a head. You can give away the best information in the world and people will completely ignore it and disrespect you as a presenter, but as soon as you assign a monetary value to it that is enough to attract their attention they'll show up on time, shut up, listen, ask questions and generally break their asses. Same information. Different assignment of value. Maybe $1000.00 is a bit steep if you want lots of your membership to come listen, but I bet those that came paid attention and asked good questions.

-Greg
gscace
 
Posts: 102
Joined: Fri Aug 12, 2005 7:15 am
Location: Laytonsville MD
full name: Gregory Scace
company: Espresso Research

Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby Marshall on Mon Apr 20, 2009 12:11 pm

Greg,

My impression is that much (but not all) of the interesting agricultural research is happening in an academic setting, where people are usually eager to share their discoveries, while a very high percentage of research and equipment development relating to roasting and brewing (including espresso) is proprietary. Please correct me if I am wrong.

If I am right, what would it take to pry some meaningful dialogue out of people working on the machine side? If we couldn't, is there enough non-proprietary work going on to have a reasonable number of speakers like you?
Marshall Fuss
Lawyer
Pasadena, California
Member SCAA
Marshall
 
Posts: 505
Joined: Thu Oct 06, 2005 10:21 pm
Location: Pasadena, CA
full name: Marshall Fuss
company: Marshall R. Fuss, Attorney at Law
: http://www.linkedin.com/in/fusslaw

Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby gscace on Mon Apr 20, 2009 1:54 pm

Marshall wrote:Greg,

My impression is that much (but not all) of the interesting agricultural research is happening in an academic setting, where people are usually eager to share their discoveries, while a very high percentage of research and equipment development relating to roasting and brewing (including espresso) is proprietary. Please correct me if I am wrong.


I don't think I'm on solid ground for personal correction, although my wife may think differently. I'm guessing that if discussion of a machine or process-related topic does not require disclosure of proprietary information you'd get industry participants. You'd also get participation from equipment companies if there was a perceived sales benefit from either the participation itself (being seen as an industry leader through research), or from the discussion. An example would be if machine company A published something like "Reducing the Operating Cost of Espresso Equipment through Improved Energy Management", and then presented their work on reducing energy consumption. It smells like an infomercial and it might be, but if done properly it could present methods for improving efficiency while at the same time warming the hearts of the sales staff. At the same time, ya gotta guard against presentations in which some guy reads off powerpoint slides extolling the virutes of things like "EspressoEnergyMiser" as a complete sales pitch with no details. A good editiorial jackboot-to-the-head policy for this type of crap helps a lot.

Marshall wrote:If I am right, what would it take to pry some meaningful dialogue out of people working on the machine side? If we couldn't, is there enough non-proprietary work going on to have a reasonable number of speakers like you?


I wonder if you'd get response if the manufacturers thought that there was something to be gained from the discussion, either in sales or in defining engineering requirements. Going back to the example above - you might relax on the infomercial thing a little if the article / paper was technically informative.

What happens of you ask roaster mfgs. and other machine-side folks what the problems are, what technical issues need to be resolved, and see if there's enough support for a session? What else would be of interest to machine folks - How bout chemistry changes in response to changes in brewing parameters, defining brew parameter variation thresholds based on blind taste testing. energy management. Here's another - implementing schemes to improve quality control and uniformity. That might include including remote parameter monitoring, using brew parameter monitoring as feedback control in brewing processes,

WRT non-proprietary folk - Bill Crossland doesn't work for LM anymore. I don't know if he has any gag order in place, but he's a smart guy and a decent speaker. I also think that the Simonelli guys are pretty active these days and might have something to contribute. Certainly LM has been busy as well.

It might be sort of like how the WBC machine selection thing evolved. The first time it got done, only a very few manufacturers participated seriously. Last year it was taken seriously by all the participants and all thought it was a very worthwhile experience.

-Greg
gscace
 
Posts: 102
Joined: Fri Aug 12, 2005 7:15 am
Location: Laytonsville MD
full name: Gregory Scace
company: Espresso Research

Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby gscace on Tue Apr 21, 2009 5:42 am

Marshall wrote:Greg,

My impression is that much (but not all) of the interesting agricultural research is happening in an academic setting, where people are usually eager to share their discoveries, while a very high percentage of research and equipment development relating to roasting and brewing (including espresso) is proprietary. Please correct me if I am wrong.

If I am right, what would it take to pry some meaningful dialogue out of people working on the machine side? If we couldn't, is there enough non-proprietary work going on to have a reasonable number of speakers like you?


Hi again:

I was mulling over what you wrote and I was thinking about last year's WBC machine trials as an example of what it would take to pry meaningful dialogue out of folks. After the measurement stuff was concluded, we conducted some useability tests in which teams including world-class baristas evaluated the various machines for ease of use, layout, ergonomics,steaming performance, ability to make coffee, blah woof. It turned out to be the most interesting part of the week - sort of like a hands-on roundtable. My recollection is that all the manufacturers were pretty geeked with the feedback, because it was of very high quality.

-Greg
gscace
 
Posts: 102
Joined: Fri Aug 12, 2005 7:15 am
Location: Laytonsville MD
full name: Gregory Scace
company: Espresso Research

Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby sweetmarias on Tue Apr 21, 2009 3:19 pm

I tuned out for a bit and a lot of new posts were submitted to this thread. Unfortunately, I don't even have time to read it. Honestly, cupping Coe colombia, sample roaster heating up, 4 new espresso blend ideas to evaluate, talking with Josh about how to get more airflow in the warehouse, is the coffee stacked too close to the probat in the corner, should we go for new grinders from italy, test out the Vario mill ... one week home after the scaa, and then 2 weeks away. I am not trying to share a laundry list of problems, but to illustrate that forums are good because participation is optional, and "on demand". You can tune in or out, and that's why it works for coffee people (and why it will be good if RG ever gets a improved communtiy board running) . I recognize that symposium and scaa and rg retreat are quite different, and offer a different payback. I can't imagine doing all 3 as separate events, but I can imagine doing symposium and roasters guild retreat for sure if symp. was indeed split off from scaa. If it was organized as a separate event it could be better tuned for the participants, and I hope that would mean putting it an accessible and not-completely-lame city. I also would want a track that revolved exclusively around things that bear on cup quality, because most anything that has to do with front office business, management, marketing or whatever makes me (personally) run away as fast as I can. I would prefer to see it revolve solely around coffee quality issues. anyway, Edwin asked what would make ME go, so that's the basis for my answer here.

Of course, it would also have to be scheduled in June or something, because there are few other times of the year some of us could go based on coffee travel.

And yes, I am optimistic about the future of this, as a kind of academic version of roasters guild retreat with some influence from the Ohio sustainable conference.

I guess this thread wouldn't have been so productive if the Symposium was just a distant idea, but the fact it actually happened gives something to react to, criticize (in the positive sense of the dialectic) and build on -tom

PS: by the way, i am trying to pose these questions as devils advocate, and also as a representative of a certain size coffee business, with a certain set of problems in terms of having the time and money for the symposium. it's not a personal thing, although i do not know what i was thinking with the thread title - i think i had a beer or two when i wrote the first post... i dont WANT to see scaa become a lame trade org nor for the symposium to fail. on the contrary ...
let's cup through this ... together.
http://www.sweetmarias.com | http://www.coffeeshrub.com
sweetmarias
 
Posts: 130
Joined: Fri Jul 07, 2006 12:24 pm
Location: West Oakland
full name: thompson r owen
company: sweet maria's
: www.sweetmarias.com
: www.coffeeshrub.com

Re: Is SCAA Symposium a load of bullshit or what?

Postby 123coffee on Wed Apr 22, 2009 8:00 pm

THOUGHTS ON SYMPOSIUMS AND COW PIES

Not having been a member of the SCAA inner-circle for some 25 years, I sometimes learn of things after the fact. I did not learn about the Symposium until it was already scheduled. When approached, I chose not to endorse or participate in a program that would draw attention and rock stars away from the main event (the conference) to what I considered a side show that was out of financial reach for the majority of SCAA members. The Symposium as presented to me seemed undemocratic, and it seemed wrong.

Please indulge me while I put my decision making process in context. I have an unapologetic and abiding affection for both SCAA, Roasters Guild and other pillars of the specialty coffee infrastructure, in part because I remember a time when the coffee world was cold to good coffee. I was seventeen when I entered the trade in 1963. There was no one with whom to share ideas except my old man. My future in coffee was in doubt (very few folks wanted to buy what I wanted to make) and even the words Specialty Coffee were a decade away. When, years later I had survived my baptism of fire, and the opportunity arose to help good coffee find a spiritual home, I was determined to help create the institution I had lacked as a coffee kid. The ideal was an organization where coffee people would be nurtured by their fellows, and would in turn pass it forward. I knew the history of our trade, and its demise in a previous generation. I wanted to avoid a repeat of bad coffee-history.

You may ask, what the hell that has to do with an SCAA symposium? Well, the idea of SCAA in my head was an idea for people of good will to come together as a community of good coffee; to share ideas, and dreams, techniques, and resources, and each others’ experiences and companionship in a collegial atmosphere of respect and friendship (not unlike these forums on coffeed.com). It was, in my mind’s eye, a brotherhood of small independent roasters, and to borrow Pete McLaughlin’s phrase, “greenies of the right sort,” and it was to be fun.

A few years passed, and after we had a first SCAA year under our belts, there was a meeting of the first SCAA Forward Planning Committee. Increasing membership was important to create a flow of funds necessary to conduct business. I think the membership was still under a few hundred then, and we were just passed the point where SCAA expenses were coming out of our own pockets. There was a critical need to fashion a financial platform to enable the group to do more than just publish a homemade quarterly newsletter, and meet twice a year for an hour at the Fancy Food shows in New York and San Francisco. Retailer participation, it was decided, would strengthen the organization. Retailer membership was encouraged, retailer member dues were cut, and retailer members flocked to SCAA. Some time later allied product manufacturers were added, and we saw the addition of equipment and supply manufacturers, tee-shirt vendors, syrup manufacturers, and jewelers to the SCAA ranks. Also, national NGOs from many coffee producing countries, and large importing trade houses also joined. An outside management organization to run day-to-day operations was hired, and later Ted Lingle was hired as an in-house Executive Director, offices were established, and a staff was built around our first staff hire, Melissa Pugash.

The organization that emerged in the 1990’s was much stronger, but substantially different; more organized, more efficient, less personal, than the cozy group that I worked to create a decade earlier. We have continued to grow and change during the years that followed. We have been battered by some hard times, and we have regrouped and gone on. We have been replenished by new generations of roaster/retailers, and we have been enlightened by social and political movements that we could not even have dreamed of thirty years ago. We have seen the rise of a great international specialty coffee brand, the valve bag, flavored coffee, the espresso revolution, French press, latte-art the Barista the super-automatic and halogen powered coffee siphons. SCAA has grown to thousands, and been joined in the specialty coffee village by three offspring CQI (originally Specialty Coffee Institute) Roasters Guild and Barista Guild. Along the way Others have joined us in a parallel trail toward a quality cup including Cup of Excellence, Women’s Coffee Alliance, Coffee Kids, Grounds for Health, Cup for Education, along with Specialty Coffee Associations in Brazil Japan Europe Australia and East Africa and more and still more. We have come a long way from my naïve hope of community, and I like what I see most of the time, but I remain an idealist in all things coffee, and I continue to seek the warmth of a village in what is now the largest coffee trade association and coffee community in the world.

The Symposium as conceived just didn’t work for me and my idea of the community in which my coffee soul dwells. In that community all is open for all to participate at no extra charge. I also understand that things change. Gillies was founded four years before the invention of the Telegraph, 36 years before the telephone, and 39 years before Edison invented the incandescent light. Mr.Gillies couldn’t understand twitter any more than I can understand a world without zippers on pants. Many of the folks that I have respect for in this community worked hard to bring about the Symposium, others attended and said that it was worthwhile and meaningful. So now I am not sure about my own judgment in the matter. I do have the knowledge that we will have the opportunity to have this discussion again next year.

-Donald Schoenholt
123coffee
 
Posts: 39
Joined: Thu Oct 06, 2005 6:18 pm
Location: Brooklyn, New York USA
full name: Donald Schoenholt
company: Gillies Coffee Co.
: www.gilliescoffee.com

Next

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest