By Christopher Schooley, Coffee Roaster, Coffee Shrub/Sweet Maria’s
I remember very clearly what it felt like to walk into my first coffee event. I certainly went into it with some preconceived notions, but of course that all went up in smoke. There was so much tasting, lecture, discussion, and tinkering happening with the tools of our craft, it was impossible to not be completely immersed in coffee roasting. Even beyond the activities we were participating in, the interaction with other roasters was a most rewarding aspect.
I discovered that I was a part of a community. I became more and more involved in this community, and grew to be a more active member through my participation and volunteering—and not just at that first coffee event, but also at other events with access to an even larger community. I also became more involved with my new community through interactions online, but it was definitely the events and the in-person interaction that were the most rewarding and inspiring.
This same idea of access to a community is one of the main driving forces behind the emergence and popularity of latté art throwdown type get-togethers. These smaller scale informal events have truly been a tremendous means of not just tying together the coffee communities in the cities and/or regions where they’re happening, but also in pushing quality standards and expectations in these regions. All of this is great, but in many cases people are asking for more. While these events provide the venue for interaction with other professionals, they’re not necessarily providing a format where attendees can be engaged in activities that test their skills or expose them to new ones, or even to taste something and discuss why it tastes that way and/or how to make it taste another way.