Coffee Fest Recap Part 2

In addition to the exhibitions, Coffee Fest also offered several free classes (and some paid ones) to help people improve their businesses and increase their coffee knowledge. Because I am one of those people who liked school, and because they were free, I decided to attend the Saturday morning classes. I had to get up at 6:15 to get there on time Fortunately, it was a beautiful clear, crisp morning and the walk to the bus stop was invigorating. The bus from Everett dropped me off a block from the convention center about twenty minutes before my first class started (Side note: Seattle’s public transportation, although primarily buses, is better than its reputation).

The street lights were still on when I got to the convention center

My first class, “How to Effectively Compete with National brands,” was taught by Sol Salzer, one of the owners of the City Bean Coffee in Los Angeles. The first thing he did was to thank Starbucks and the other national chains (Peet’s, Gloria Jean’s, Coffee Bean, etc.) for raising the standards of the coffee industry. Then he spent the next hour talking about how to beat them. He used Starbucks as his main example, telling the story of how he used the Starbucks that moved in across the street to help grow his business. Starbucks brought many customers to the neighborhood, and City Bean was able to capture some of that traffic by effectively targeting them.

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Coffee Fest Recap Part 1

If you’ve read my last couple posts, you know that I spent this past weekend at Coffee Fest in Seattle. One of the reasons I wanted to go to the show was to see the city itself. It had been a long time (8 years or so) since I visited the Emerald City, and I had forgotten how much bigger Seattle is. Seattle’s downtown area has a lot more people and quite a bit more traffic.

Like Portland, Seattle has a reputation for being rainy, but when the sun is out (as it was on Friday afternoon), it is a beautiful city. On a clear day you can see the Olympic Mountains to the West and Mount Rainier to the East. Located on Puget Sound, Seattle has a number of inlets and lakes that carve up the city.

Nothing but blue sky, at least for one day

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Quick Hits from Coffee Fest-Day 1

A few observations from the first day of Coffee Fest:

  1. Smaller companies tend to be more interested in talking to a writer who doesn’t work for a major publication than some of the larger, more established companies. Not always, but it’s the impression I get.
  2. There are coffee nerds from all over the world.
  3. The Carraro booth is a good place to practice your Italian.
  4. Cherry cupcake is not a flavor I would recommend for a smoothie.
  5. If there were a competition for “Sexiest Espresso Machine,” Nuova Simonelli would win, hands down.
  6. If you want to be popular at a coffee trade show, bring your espresso bar and give away free drinks. People like chocolate too.
  7. If you don’t want to be popular, bring a selection of wooden stirrer sticks. The guys at that booth looked really bored.
  8. If you tell someone you work for Caffeinated PDX, they say “Oh!” and nod politely.
  9. The worst location for an exhibitor is the booth opposite the flashing LED sign exhibit. The guy working there probably has “Open” burned onto his retinas by now.
  10. Not everyone who works a booth needs to be extrovert, but they ought to at least be able to maintain a conversation.
  11. People can get excited about anything if they try hard enough. I got into a very engaging conversation with a woman about the effectiveness of single-direction de-gassing valves in barrier-type coffee bags. Go figure.
  12. My kids don’t know it yet, but it looks like they’re getting coffee swag for Christmas this year.
I’m starting off day two with an 8am class on “How to effectively compete with larger chains.” It better be good—I got up at 6:15 on a Saturday to get here.