At the beginning of October, I had the pleasure of hosting sixteen Korean coffee professionals for a tour of the Portland coffee scene. In two and a half days, we visited eight cafés, five roasteries, two coffee equipment stores, and attended three different educational events. The itinerary was probably a little too ambitious—by the end of each day, the everyone was floating around in a caffeinated haze. Jet lag contributed to their exhaustion, but so did the crammed schedule. It was the first time I had ever organized a group like this, and I wanted to show them as much of Portland coffee as I could in a short time (mission accomplished). On the last day, we decided to skip several planned stops so everyone could go shopping (there is more to life than coffee, after all).
Even with the slightly-too-busy schedule, the group seemed to have a good time. We had perfect weather (something I look back upon fondly, watching the falling rain), several laughs, and some in-depth coffee discussions. The best part was exchanging a bit of each others’ cultures and connecting over coffee. Portland did a great job of hosting, and the passion of the city’s coffee people came through as they showed us their companies and explained what made them each unique.
This week, it will be the Koreans’ turn to show me around. I will be in Seoul, South Korea, to participate in theAngel-in-us World Barista Grand Prix (AWBG) as a sensory judge. Angel-in-us is a café chain in Korea, owned by Lotte, a large food retail conglomerate founded in Japan, and long-established in Korea as well. For the past several years, Angel-in-us has sponsored barista competitions in Korea, but this will be the first time competitors (and judges) have come from outside Korea. The competition will be held during the Seoul Café Show, one of the biggest coffee trade shows in Asia.* COFFEE Monthly magazine, one of the main sponsors of the Korean-Portland coffee tour, is also a sponsor of the ABWG.
I can’t wait for the trip. I don’t know if the schedule will be quite as full as our tour in Portland, and I’m sure I won’t want to shop as much as some of my new friends did, but it should be a great week all the same.
* The ABWG is separate from the Korean Barista Championship (KBC), also taking place this week