Being a member of the Specialty Coffee Association of America for twenty two years, since 1988, has been one of the greatest joys and business blessings of my life. I owe much of my long term success to the many S.C.A.A. conventions and meetings I have attended, where I have been able to grow my contacts within this beloved, spiritual and fun group of coffee professionals. I really have to say that of all the sectors of the food industry I have been involved with throughout my entire career (spanning 30 years in many areas of the food industry, since graduating with my food technology degree from Ohio State University in 1980), the specialty coffee and tea industry, is made up of the best people in the food business today. There is just some sort of intense, human spiritual connection that you feel among our membership that I can’t explain or put into words. From the coffee farmers, importers, roasters and allied trade you can feel the special excitement and joy walking the floor at each convention, or by simply running into wonderful friends attending each meeting I go to. There for certain is a common denominator or bond we all share and feel among ourselves, which commits us to making the world of coffee better and better with each passing year. You simply have to attend as many meetings as possible to feel this love for our field. In my situation too, I visit with many roasters and importers during my travels across the U.S. and Canada and there’s no better feeling in my book than seeing all of your friends under one roof, at many S.C.A.A. events. In fact, sometimes it’s hard to visit with everyone whom you want to, because every person in attendance is so much fun and interesting. It’s fun to talk to and be educated about each person’s special segment of our profession. There’s so much to learn, and so many wonderful and interesting people to meet. It’s also a huge amount of fun to hang-out with old gold friends. It’s like information and joyous overload because you just can’t do it all, and some of us like me feel guilty that you did not get to see and spend time with everyone that you wanted to at every workshop or convention I attend.
I will always remember my first ever S.C.A.A. convention in 1989 in a small room at the Intercontinental Hotel in New Orleans where I was one of twenty or so exhibitors. I represented a firm which is no longer around today, C. Melchers & Co. America Inc., a Bremen, Germany manufacturing company (then, with offices and warehousing in the San Francisco bay area) specializing in production of coffee bean and tea leaf flavorings.
I set-up my booth with the idea of not serving hot flavored coffee and teas as I thought people walking around in New Orleans would be hot and thirsty. Thus, I set-up a Taylor Slush machine for frozen, flavored coffee granita, type beverages, and offered flavored iced teas as well. I received many compliments about the delicious flavored coffee slushes I served, including French Vanilla, Hazelnut Cream, Caramel Cream, Chocolate Mocha, and Hawaiian Chocolate Macadamia Nut. One man I met really stood out because I never saw anyone pile on their beverage as much whipped cream as he did, dollop after dollop, until it spilled over the glass. I don’t think this guy is involved anymore in coffee today, but his name was Vernon Strachen (not certain about the last name spelling anymore). However, Vernon was living at the time in Jamaica and represented the Jamaican Coffee Board. He stood about 6 feet 6 inches or more tall and spoke in a deep resonating voice with a huge Ha Ha Ha Haaah laugh, that reminded me of the famous Cola Man that acted on the old Seven-UP television commercials, showing a lime and a lemon in one hand and a cola nut in the other hand. Yikes, now I’m really showing my age! Vernon invited me to tour the Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee farms with him and yes, I still need to do that, but I don’t think Vernon is involved any more. Last I heard he is living somewhere up in Canada, so if anyone knows where he is please let me know how to reach him, as I would love a tour from him, even if he is not involved any more.
One of the reasons the S.C.A.A. is so GR8!! is because your contacts are renewed over and over again at each convention, event or workshop. About seven years later I think, or was it eight, the S.C.A.A. returned to this year’s Super Bowl Championship city of New Orleans, but wow, there weren’t just twenty exhibitors anymore as the show had mushroomed in size. Anyway at the opening ceremony we were all asked to form a dance parade which I think was supposed to simulate the traditional New Orleans, Second Line dancing parades (following the first line of the marching jazz band), held to let the good times roll. I believe these parades started out associated with funeral marches to chase away the sad feelings. Anyway, some of us had the traditional parasols and handkerchiefs which we were twirling. So after everyone had a few cocktails and we all were dancing around the ballroom, I got a tap on my shoulder from behind while I was marching along in the merriment. I did not recognize this very tall man at first, and after a blank stare from me that must have lasted 6 or 8 seconds, he said “Michael Mon, you don’t remember me? But Michael, You are the Whipped Cream Mon!” “Oh my God! Now I know who you are, I said”. “Vernon, it’s so awesome to see you again.” Then, we caught-up on each others lives for the last 7 years. I will never ever forget that Second Line celebration. Special memories like this, motivate me to want to come back time and time again, and not just to our annual conventions. Thanks S.C.A.A. for providing me with so many wonderful opportunities to enrich my life and I’m certain the lives of other coffee people too.
As I continue to build my wonderful specialty coffee career, I now am in the position of wanting to give back, by volunteering some project work to one of the best professional associations out there. Our association helped me and now it’s my turn to help them, by getting more involved, which I pledged to the S.C.A.A. officers in Long Beach during my visit at the beginning of February this year. As soon as I opened the S.C.A.A. office door, I immediately saw two special coffee friends in the lobby that made me feel like I was dreaming. Wow it was good to see you Don and Felipe. Unexpected meetings like that are common as a member of this association. They happen all the time.
It’s really more than an honor to be a member of the Specialty Coffee Association of America. I look forward to helping our industry grow as much as possible both economically and socially, and for as long as I can. God Bless the Specialty Coffee and Tea business.
Kindest Regards, & Best Wishes S.C.A.A. and to our membership,
Michael S. Abrams
Flavor Waves Inc. “
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