Ahhh… There we were, riding up the escalator at the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s annual event, awaiting new flavors and cutting-edge gadgets. Everyone was decked out in sleek button downs, slightly rolled up above the ankle jeans, perfectly un-groomed facial hair, and sleeve tattoos so fresh you could smell the anti-infection ointment. One could feel the trendiness…I mean excitement in the air!
We walked a little further. The show floor was filled with thousands of things that I would love to blow my money on. All of the top coffee personalities were in attendance. From coffee roasters, to the sleek espresso machines, and weird contraptions with coffee traveling around in clear tubes that nobody understands what they do, this event had it all.
I’m poking fun, but all of these things (for the most part) are enjoyable and useful. It is just that sometimes the wrong things steal the true beauty. I can get sideways and giddy over a new brewing scale and my mind can be blown by a $20,000 espresso machine, but those things still leave me empty. I mean, they will just build another scale and manufacture better espresso machines as this is the way that innovation works.
Despite all of the flashy things that will be outdated by this time next year, there are some things that you can’t replace — something – or better yet someone – that makes the event worth attending. It’s your friend from Guatemala who happens to grow the coffee roasted and served at your cafe. Nobody really knows who he is, and he doesn’t get awkward, uncontrollable hugs from people he’s never met like the uber-popular coffee celebs receive. He is Aurelio Villatoro, a fellow family member of Onyx Coffee importers in Bellingham, WA.
It is him that I will remember seeing for the first time in two years, above anything else from the event. His warm embrace and genuine spirit is real. It doesn’t leave you empty. It serves as a reminder that relationships far outweigh a silly trophy (easy for me to say, I didn’t compete) from a barista competition.
At the end of the day, let us not forget the beauty of the small shareholder farmer and overlook the true value of a brother and fellow coffee lover. Here’s to you Aurelio and Onyx Coffee for reminding me of the beauty that coffee has to offer.