The Specialty Coffee Association’s annual EXPO is a lot like Disneyworld.
Hear me out.
Like Disney, EXPO tries to pack more into 3-5 days than is humanly possible. There are various “parks” under the convention umbrella–you’ve got your giant showroom floor as well as competition spaces (2), the Roasters Village, breakaway rooms for workshops, keynotes, etc, and the Re:co Symposium, an entire conference-within-a-conference. Each space is full of possibility. There are great minds to learn from, important industry topics to discuss, new products to try out. And coffee. So. Much. Coffee.
We Methodifolk anchored ourselves proudly to the Roasters Village, where we served our coffee day in and day out next to like-minded roasters. From there, The six of us broke off–some attending workshops to learn more about our roasting software, some bellying up to the table at a private cupping hosted by one of our importing partners, and most volunteering our time serving at 7 booths in addition to our own. It was a whirlwind, like Disney. Only in our case, there were far fewer plush mascots offering autographs.
In all of the bustle of EXPO, there’s a central theme. Connection. It is, arguably, the common thread tying all members of the coffee chain. Connection showcases itself in aggregate entirety throughout the EXPO schedule. We had opportunities to shake hands with the woman who checks quality on our Colombian coffees at origin, held conversations with women doing the legwork on promoting gender equality in roasting, and made coffee alongside the folks who manufacture some of our brewing equipment. It’s a scale portrait of the industry at large. Hand to hand, information, resources, and services are passed down–from seed alllll the way to cup–to make coffee work.
At this years’ EXPO, this portrait of connection showed one of its facets in the revival of a childhood pastime. As we set up our wares in the Roasters’ Village on Thursday, Will pulled out a plastic bag of round, Methodical branded tokens. “Are those… pogs?” I asked. Yes, yes they were–those colorful, collectible round pieces of cardboard that most of us hoarded and few of us knew how to actually play with. They made a comeback at the SCA EXPO, of all the places in the world. All throughout the conference, pogs seemed to pop up everywhere, punctuating meetings of minds and ideas with a nonchalant and colorful dot.
Connection is often made in the modest moments, over a thing as unassuming and juvenile as a pog collection. When we left EXPO, each of us had at least a handful of the things. Tired, full of pastries (hello cannoli) and with a box brimming with coffee samples, we headed back to Greenville. We left with more than just pogs and coffee, though. We left with lasting connections to coffee producers, educators, fellow roasters, service-minded and generous and gracious people–and that’s kinda the whole point of the grand amusement park that is EXPO.