Recap: Specialty Coffee Expo 2023

Another Specialty Coffee Expo has come and gone, and this year’s event in Portland, Oregon was filled with coffee, community, education, and so much more throughout the show! Our team this year was made up of people from throughout Ally—including the Sales, Marketing, Sourcing, and Logistics departments—who traveled from across the US, Colombia, and Costa Rica to attend the show. Our booth featured two brew bars, one dedicated to sharing space with some of our roaster clients as they served pour over brews of coffees sourced from Ally Coffee producer partners, and another featuring Ratio Six brewers sponsored by Ratio Coffee where our team kept a steady stream of Ally offerings available including Core Coffees, fresh crop microlots, Ally Open releases, and a special feature highlighting co-fermented coffees and other nanolots produced by our friends Rodrigo Sanchez and Claudia Samboni of Aromas del Sur.

Brewing coffee at the Ally Client Brew BarBrewing at the Ally Client Brew Bar. Top: brewers from La Colombe. Bottom: Brewers from Little Waves.

The Ally Coffee Brew BarBrewing at the Ally Coffee Brew Bar. Top: Chelsea Thoumsin (L), Gabriel Restrepo (R). Bottom and Right: Gabriel Restrepo.

Saturday was a particularly busy day for us as we collaborated with our friends at Clearpath Coffee highlighting co-fermented coffees with both a cupping and a panel discussion exploring the potential of this innovative process, and its place in specialty coffee. We were elated to see a full cupping room first thing in the morning with Rodrigo, Claudia, Vicente Mejia of Clearpath Coffee, and Julio Madrid who owns and operates three farms in Risaralda: La Rivera, Milan, and Buenos Aires. Curiosity and excitement were obvious as attendees tasted a number of diverse profiles including passionfruit, coconut lemonade, and citrullus nectar among the 12 lots available.

Scenes from the co-fermented coffees cuppingScenes from the co-fermented coffees cupping.

The day continued with the afternoon’s panel discussion, Infused coffees from producer and consumer perspective. Are these coffees a good business opportunity or a problem for the industry?, where we brought together people representing coffee production, exporting, importing, and roasting to discuss this innovation in coffee processing. Vicente opened the panel setting the stage for the discussion, “Some of the things that we want to discuss in this panel and want to share with all of you is to change the mindset and the pushback that these coffees have been having, and explore some of the ways that we've been using them, some of the ways that roasters have been exploring them with their audiences, what are the opportunities for these coffees in the industry, and the main idea is to bring up a way of looking at these coffees and a way to use them as an industry.”

Rodrigo offered a thoughtful perspective on several aspects of the topic, giving insight from not only his expertise in coffee processing, but also from the sometimes unheard voice of a producer. “Coffee fermentation and the specialty coffee industry has been growing so fast in the last few years, and the more [the industry] knows about coffee processing, about fermentation, the more questions there are. The producer is sometimes left out of that conversation about processing, what is happening on the farm, and what they need to do in order to do something that is valuable and interesting for the market,” he said.

Panelist during the panel discussion.Panelists left to right: Rodrigo Sanchez, Vicente Mejia, Ricardo Pereira, Vic Scutari of Brandywine Coffee Roasters, Mark Trujillo of Hub Coffee Roasters, Sara Frinak.

Ricardo shared the challenges that importers face in helping create the market for coffee to move forward through innovation, saying, “These processes that Rodrigo does, I had my hesitations at first because it's something new and people don't like changes. We don't have a lot of [roasters] out there trying to showcase this coffee to their clients. There's not a line of people waiting to buy these coffees from Rodrigo, so as an importer we have to create a marketplace, we have to create an outlet, we have to find [roasters like panelists Vic and Mark] out there to try these coffees.

From a coffee roaster’s perspective, Vic Scutari of Brandywine Coffee Roasters discussed what inspires him and the Brandywine team to take on co-fermented and other experimental coffees, and the importance of continued investment in innovation at origin. “We've always had this desire to help producers push forward innovation, so we've been working with Rodrigo for a long time. We've [also] worked with him on non-co-fermented experimental processes, and every time Rodrigo sends me something I'm excited because I know it's going to be different. I know that even if I don't like that coffee that he probably learned something in that process that's going to inform how the next processing trend goes.

Watch: Infused coffees from producer and consumer perspective on Instagram!

Group images from ExpoConnecting with producer and exporter partners, clockwise from top-left: Brewers from Bridge City with Alemayehu Dagne of Tracon Trading PLC and Ricardo Pereira; Abraham Castro with Meylin Carranza and Diego Guardia of CECA S.A., Jeff Courson; brewers from Roast House with Diego Robelo of Aquiares Estate, Abraham Castro; Silvio Sanchez of Santa Teresa de Mogoton, Abraham Castro; brewers from Hub Coffee with Claudia Samboni.

We greatly appreciate events like Expo and the opportunity they provide for us to engage in conversations like our panel discussion, to connect with people throughout the supply chain, and to create fresh connections directly between producers, roasters, and other coffee people who may not otherwise get the chance. It’s always a privilege to be reminded of how important those connections are, and how special the people are in our industry who work each day to move coffee forward.

Group images from ExpoConnecting with team members and friends from the industry. Top: Sara Frinak, Sandy Infante, Baylee Engberg. Bottom-left: Ally Coffee CEO Rogerio Schiavo chatting with a group. Bottom-right: Nicholas Yamada of Perfect Daily Grind with Ricardo Pereira, Stephanie Calato, Nick Castellano.

Thank you again to all of our sponsors who helped make our booth as wonderful as it was, including Ratio, Marco, Ikawa, and Brewista, and a very special thanks to everyone who joined us at Expo this year! We look forward to seeing more of you at future events including the upcoming World of Coffee Athens where you can find us in Hall 2 at Booth J30 from June 22–24!

Ally team members at ExpoAlly Coffee team members, clockwise from top-left: Merisa Mangano, Gabby Wright Deserre, Jeff Courson, Ricardo Pereira.

Group photo of the Ally Coffee attendees to the showGroup photo of the Ally Coffee team present at the show. Standing, left to right: Nick Castellano, Creative Projects Manager; Sandy Infante, US Logistics Coordinator; Gabriel Restrepo, Colombia Buyer; Rogerio Schiavo, CEO; Ricardo Pereira, COO; Gabby Wright Deserre, US Sales Manager West; Jeff Courson, Southwest US Account Manager; Merisa Mangano, Northeast US Account Manager; Mike Greene, Content Manager. Kneeling, left to right: Abraham Castro, Central America Buyer; Chelsea Thoumsin, Southeast US Account Manager; Baylee Engberg, Northwest US Account Manager; Sara Frinak, US Sales Manager East; Stephanie Calato, Marketing Manager; Luiz Tinoco, Market Intelligence Manager; Benjamin Karski, US QC Lab Coordinator.

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