According to the SCAA website...

"The SCAA Annual Conference & Exhibition is the country's premier coffee event, attracting over 8,000 coffee professionals from more than 40 countries. Attendees include coffee producers, exporters and importers, roasters, manufacturers, brew masters, and consumer enthusiasts."

Tomorrow at noon I am on a plane heading towards Charlotte. On the evening of the 9th I will be back home, no doubt still extremely caffeinated. I will finally get to meet people I have chatted with online, listen and learn from some very experienced industry people and generally soak in the atmosphere. I hope to get a cool coffee t-shirt (I so rarely buy t-shirts nowadays, in fact most of my t-shirts are years and years old and I wear them all the time, poor Doreen) and I'm sure I will pick-up a couple of other neat coffee-nerd things. Hopefully I don't buy a roaster, a producing warehouse or a coffee plantation in Guatemala - thankfully I'm sure there won't be booths selling warehouses or plantations. Oh yeah, and in case it wasn't clear, I intend to be very caffeinated; I will be sampling as much of the espresso as possible - maybe even pull a few shots?!?

Because of the SCAA convention I have kept my roasted bean stash intentionally low, I will grab some espresso to fly back home, from some of the more famous N. American roasteries - ooooh it will be interesting to pull them at home. Roasted beans that are generally too expensive to bring into Canada with the involved shipping, customs, duties etc, now available in one intense weekend. In my perfect little coffee world I would be coming back with about 8 x quarter pound batches from eight different and very famous roasters. Yeah right!

Why so excited about bringing "famous" roasts back home, shouldn't I just be satisfied with home roasting? Read on for my analysis on the need (at least for me) for both home roasting and roasterie coffee.

A case for Home Roasting... Well, now that I have about 60 or 70 roasts under my belt I am enjoying the results. I know I am a complete newbie at roasting compared to the decades of experience others have, but my "in the cup" experiences from my own roasts are pretty good overall. The costs of home roasting are generally less than half the cost of buying in a local storefront (this is for "average" arabica storefront roasted coffee, which I can't drink anymore based on either extremely poor quality beans or expiry dates). In some cases where I would need to have "a better quality" roasted bean shipped to me due to an inability to purchase boutique coffees in Calgary, the cost of goods can be three times my costs compared to roasting it myself. With home roasting I also have the advantage of assured freshness, tweaking the roast to my own mad-scientist whims, and of course the satisfaction of researching, selecting, sorting, blending and ultimately producing what I want. But relying purely on home roasting as my de facto standard is a bit myopic. Things are changing fast in the coffee industry regarding boutique roasterie coffees, hence the next paragraph.

A case for roasterie coffee... First of all, I should clarify I have drank a few "famous" roasted beans. I wouldn't want to go to the expense of constantly having labelled beans in my kitchen, and expense aside it would take away from my enjoyment of roasting. I would really like to have an occasional bag of a few world-class roasting companies to use as baselines against my collection of home roasted. Lets face it, you can't tell how you are doing against "the big boys" unless you are tasting their product(and by big I don't mean Starbucks). I'm not so self-involved that I think I am even close to the results of the industry leaders - that would be pretty egotistical. But to move towards their best in class product level you have to understand what it is that defines its greatness. What I used to think was great, doesn't appear to be great anymore, now that I am tasting boutique, fresh home roast. But to overlook roasterie coffee because I think home roasting is the be all end all is, for me at least, myopic (it seems this is my word of the day). So, fresh roasted, boutique and roasted by cutting edge roasteries is still something that I need to keep on my radar.

Speaking of home roasting... Yesterday I received nine pounds of green bean via USPS global priority flat rate envelopes. Nine pounds of Ethiopian Harrar lot #162, from a Green Buying Coffee Club I am involved in. I roasted up a batch of the green right away and cupped it as soon as it was cooled down. It was so satisfying that after the first couple of tasting spits(spitting is part of the cupping process, not because it tasted bad) I proceeded to drink the rest of the cup. Now here's the irony... I roasted the Harrar to be pulled as espresso, the roast should just be coming into its glory on Friday morning, as I land in Charlotte, the center of the coffee universe for the weekend. I will sneak in a couple of espresso shots of the Harrar tomorrow morning before heading for the airport I'm sure.

And because Evan digs green bean as well, here's a shot of him hugging a three pound bag of the Harrar (thanks Hananonn, et al). In case you didn't notice it before, this photo shows off Evan's newest forehead scrape, brought upon by lots of spinning in a circle and then crashing into an exterior stucco wall - nice!

Enough about coffee. Evan just ran up to me and said "Shrek music is playing, Shrek music is playing". David Bowie's "Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes" was pumping out of the B&W 802's, David Bowie immortalized by "Shrek". Bet Bowie never saw that one coming 20 years ago.

Completely unrelated and without much of a story behind it, here is a photo taken by Doreen, as I whiz down the bike path with the boys, only a couple of minutes from home.