If you notice an extra buzz on the streets of downtown Seattle this weekend, it’s probably because the people around you are even more caffeinated than usual.
Thousands of coffee industry professionals, producers, roasters, baristas and others from around the world are in town for the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s annual exposition, better known as the “Big Event” — the first of two consecutive years that the event will be held here.
GeekWire spent time Friday roaming the exhibition floor at the Washington State Convention Center, and we spotted more than a few technological advances, including a next-generation plastic coffee lid and a Bluetooth-enabled scale for coffee-brewing aficionados. (More on the scale in a follow-up post.)
The event is geared toward people inside the industry, with large, high-tech roasting equipment and commercial brewing systems taking up large portions of the floor.
More than 9,000 people are attending the overall Big Event. The trade show floor is large, but much more manageable than big technology events such as CES in Las Vegas and even the Penny Arcade Expo video-game conference, which is held each year at the same venue. Even the Starbucks booth is relatively modest.
One noticeable absentee, on the show floor at least, was Green Mountain Coffee, maker of the popular Keurig single-cup brewing machines. I went searching for the Keurig booth only to be informed that there isn’t one. (Keurig is a major sponsor of the event.)
Seattle-based La Marzocco USA is well-represented, however – inviting attendees to learn how to pull espresso shots and showing off upcoming customization options for its GS/3 home espresso machine.
One of the most fascinating elements of the event is the U.S. Barista Championships. Competitors from around the country pull espresso shots and make specialty drinks for a panel of judges, while explaining the inspiration and techniques for the drinks they’re brewing.
With music accompanying the presentations, an attentive audience in the bleachers and cameras streaming the action to the world, the competition is very much performance art.
Here are more pictures and tweets from attendees, providing a glimpse inside the big event.
— Caffe' Vita (@CaffeVita) April 25, 2014
One of many cupping tables at SCAA. Great to see so many producer and roaster friends at the show. pic.twitter.com/nxptNuOd19
— Mercanta (@MERCANTA) April 25, 2014
— BonnyM (@bmusefano) April 25, 2014
— Shawn P. Jennings (@ShawnPJennings) April 25, 2014
Honoring Erna Knutsen, the first SCAA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient back in 1991. What an amazing career! pic.twitter.com/vDFxWuRXAV
— SCAA (@SpecialtyCoffee) April 25, 2014
— David Griswold (@SHDavidG) April 23, 2014