It's almost 5 am on day three of the SCAA Skill Building Workshop here in Cleveland, OH. The phone rang at 3:30 am with the report of a motion detector being tripped inside our Superior Ave store, I'm hoping it was a false alarm; still waiting to find out.
Friday and Saturday, our roastery "classroom" area was filled with about 20 students and 10 or so volunteers and instructors, espresso machines, cupping glasses, hot water, coffee and steam. We have participants joining us from as far away as Korea (!!) and Toronto, Wisconsin and Seattle. It took us all a while to realize that the gentleman from Korea wasn't only Korean, yet living here in the US, but actually Korean and coming straight from Korea for the workshops. His latte art has been amazing.
Our Friday night barista jam produced some beautiful rosettas, as well as a double heart pattern and a skull and cross bones latte. And lots of empty beer bottles late into the night. Shout out to Wiggles (now Mr. Wiggles) and Goth Muffin (Stephen Shaum) and Devlin from New Harvest Roasters in Providence for the clean up job and locking up.
I stood in for Ellie Hutson-Matuszak, the chair of the SCAA Training Committee, whose flight was delayed, and filled the Lead Instructor shoes for the Espresso Workshops on Friday. I worked my way through all those 3 minute powerpoint slides with composure and professionalism, I think. It helped that we had experienced station instructors and students with good questions.
The Saturday cupping workshops were led by Andrew Miller from Cafe Imports in Minneapolis. I heard that the highlight of the Advanced Cupping class were the sparkling Tanzanian and the blueberry Ethiopian and crisp Kenyan. The Sumatrans were not as big of a hit, which is unusual in specialty coffee circles where there are generally folks who appreciate the Indonesian big body mouthfeel. But of course, there are nuances that make a big difference as to whether or not a given coffee is actually pleasant. For the purposes of cupping, coffees are often roasted much lighter (Agtron 60 in this case) and this reveals many of the defects.
Shout out the volunteers that poured, then washed the thousand or so cupping glasses! Our station instructors were Dawn Andrews, Phoenix's Roastery Maven, Dominic Caruso from Caruso's Coffee, Ric Rhinehart, the executive director of the SCAA, Marcie Phillips and Sarah Dallas, Phoenix baristas and Costa Rica coffee farm travelers.
Sunday will feature Ellie Hutson-Matuszak instructing the Professional Development for the Working Barista class, where we will cup six coffees and then work on latte art. Ellie honed her barista skills during her years at Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago. Our station instructors, Adam Zagger, Caitlin Harwood, Felicia "Flagg" Tiller and Julie Hutchison Breiteinstein, will make Ellie and Phoenix and the SCAA proud with their latte art and coffee prowess this morning, no doubt.
This afternoon, Dan Jansen, distinguished USBC judge and SCAA Instructor, from Franke, USA, will instruct Brewing Fundamentals. During this class we will prove that there is just as much chemistry and detailed science and art behind brewing regular drip coffee as there is behind espresso.
It has been a great experience being the host for this workshop. It was a lot of work to pull it together, but the Phoenix team pulled it off seemingly effortlessly and the smoothness of the evn thus far has been a triumph for me. I am so proud of us and of the learning that has gone on this weekend. Phoenix is proud to do its part to prove that Cleveland is a coffee town! The workshops are sold out, actually a little oversold in cases, and that is exactly what we had hoped to acheive, as well as delivering a lot of information and value to the participants.
The weekend was also a great impetus for developing a new ability to cooperate with Caruso's Coffee, who loaned us brewers, cupping spoons, cupping cups and espresso machines. Anne Denton from Red Cedar coffee, another local roaster, also happened to be at the workshop. That kind of shoulder-t0-shoulder experience is great for the Cleveland coffee scene. Community can't get built if we don't know who the members are or if we remain faceless names in a conversation. Can there be a community amongst competitors? I think that's the whole basis for the SCAA in the first place.
Rock on, Cleveland coffee scene!