For the coffeegentsia, that's the biggest annual trade show of the Specialty Coffee Association of America.
They had the World Barista Championship going on. Totally incredible. Competitors from around the world. Iceland, Spain, Poland, US - all top baristas making amazing coffees and pairing them with desserts.
Here's what I saw -
1. Drip coffee is ascending. Since it's easier to "cup" coffees in a cup and taste their unique character, the coffeegentsia are favoring drip coffee more and more. If you look at the run-away success of the Esmerelda coffee ($125 a pound), it's from winning a former drip cupping competition, not an espresso competition. You won't see espressos getting that kind of press. Drip Coffee is the Mountain Biking of coffee: it's accessible to everyone and you don't need expensive euro equipment to enjoy it. Even in the SCAA's book pile, the drip coffee books were mostly sold out and the espresso books were still in stock.
2. Coffee Snobs are rampant, complacent, and self-satisfied. There is a cadre of coffee 4-5 roasters that think they are untouchable. When they are in their trade show booths talking with visitors, their eyes are scanning for people cooler than you. It's as if they are girls at a night club that think they're too cool to dance with you. What they don't know is that every other roaster is out to get their lunch. Those up-and-coming roasters are sampling the coffees from the coffee snobs, studying their origins, reverse engineering their roasts. They're innovating and the coffee snobs aren't. It's only a matter of time until the up-and-comers eat their lunch.
3. It's very easy to become a coffee roaster today. All you need is a small coffee roasting machine, a bunch of beans, some bags and an air vent. That's the reason that one roaster after another tells me that "there's a lot of junk coffee out there." Anyone with $5,000 saved up can buy a roasting machine. And they're in business. You can even get home roasting machines for about $300 that can handle 1 pound at a time. That's a key reason for this website: to separate the junk coffee from the gems.
4. A third of the coffee roasters still don't "get" the Internet. They think that if they have their own website then they're doing all they can to sell online. That's like a book publisher not wanting to sell on Amazon because they have their own website. Or a vineyard not wanting to sell on Wine.com because they have their own website, SmallUnknownWineCompany.com. That's fine with us, say our roasters: it means more business for them!