Coffee Expo reflections: from Seattle to Amsterdam

By: Anthony Marten

Photo: Anthony Marten

Photo: Anthony Marten

The Specialty Coffee Association events in Seattle and Amsterdam this year showcased the most recent innovations in coffee. The Specialty Coffee Expo and World of Coffee reunited roasters, traders, producers, baristas, organizations, and coffee enthusiasts from around the world. These events allowed actors across the value chain to exchange information, create business relationships, and learn from each other. I was there first-hand to live the experience, and here are a few of my takeaways from the events.

Field-level work presence

Scattered across the room floors, between water purifiers, coffee grinders, and decorative mugs; producer organizations, NGOs, and companies were able to promote how they are generating change on coffee farms and with producers. It was a pleasure seeing Platform partners discuss projects they have with SAFE and also learn about other organizations that are working to transform coffee landscapes. Our Platform was also mentioned during various lectures, and specifically, within two products.

During both coffee events, we were able to screen the documentary Gender in Coffee, a film by Xavier Hamon and Hannah Stapleton, in front of industry leaders and the general public. We also had the opportunity to present the Coffee Barometer during the World of Coffee. These products generated questions about where the coffee industry is heading and how we’re working to #MakeCoffeeBetter. The answers to these questions rely on our willingness to collaborate and work toward changing the sector.

Focus on sustainability

Sustainability is not a new word in the industry, and it wasn’t missing from these events. There was a category of lectures during the Specialty Coffee Expo dedicated to sustainability, and the term was present in other lectures. The real question is: are we committed to changing to become more sustainable? According to the Barometer, “the focus on short-term profitability seems to undermine the level of ambition, investment, and impact of companies’ sustainability commitments.” It’s our time to step up and work together to ensure that we will have quality coffee in the future and to improve the livelihoods of producers.

Photo: Anthony Marten

Photo: Anthony Marten

Female coffee producers and youth

Although these two groups are constantly mentioned as focal points for change, it was challenging finding spaces where they were fairly represented. Several organizations are, and have been, working to empower them, and these events allow for their voices to be presented and heard.  Having young producers attend these activities can impulse accelerated change for them and their communities. I hope this will be taken into consideration when planning upcoming industry events.

Opportunities for growth

SAFE is a project and a knowledge-sharing platform. We’re proud to work with organizations that view collaboration as a key for transformation and that are willing to share data. We see that other multi-stakeholder platforms are also thriving. I am hopeful that by sharing the insights we all capture, we can generate real change. Events like World of Coffee and the Specialty Coffee Expo are prime examples of spaces where industry leaders and decision-makers are gathered together and are able to listen to what the data and projects have to say in order for the sector, as a whole, to become fully sustainable.


Anthony Marten