November 20th-22nd, 2019… three super busy days at the Semana Internacional do Café (International Coffee Week) in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. (From here on out, I will refer to the fair as “SIC” for short.) SIC was an incredible event, and I am super grateful to have experienced it the way I did.
SIC is an international coffee conference where people from all over Brazil (and the world) come to learn about the coffee industry in Brazil. There were people showcasing their coffee bean packages, producers of machines to use at the farm, roasters, and tons of roasted coffee for sale. There were also brewing, roasting, and cupping competitions that people trained the entire year to compete in. You could participate in cuppings and try coffees from all over the country, meet producers, and get samples to take home and roast yourself. And of course, there was the highly anticipated Coffee of the Year Award that all the coffee producers were competing for. Congratulations to Sítio Recanto dos Tucanos in the region of Alto Caparaó!
It’s the one time a year that everything and everyone in this world of specialty coffee comes together in Brazil.
When I first signed up for the conference, I hadn’t secured my roasting internship with OOP Café and knew a whopping 0 people in the industry. I was planning to go and meet people and see how it was. However, the two months leading up to the event, I visited coffee farms throughout two states of Brazil and worked in a roastery for a month, even preparing close to 300 kilograms of coffee leading up to the event.
I ended up knowing lots of amazing people at the event, and it was such a heartwarming experience to see the family of coffee producers that I spent a week on the farm with, to be there with co-workers serving coffee we roasted in the new La Marzocco espresso machines.
I tried way too many coffees and made a lot of new friends. I even secured some green coffee samples from three coffee farmers to roast when I get back to Brazil. I also met Colombian producers that I plan on visiting during my time in their country. This specialty coffee world is one big family of great people. Love it!
All this being said, I noticed two weaknesses during SIC that I hope improve in the future. The first was the lack of English at an international event. I noticed only a small handful of other foreigners there, and I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to navigate a lot of the event without knowing Portuguese. Of course, there are always people to help translate, but (in my opinion) more things should have been translated to English in anticipation of the arrival of foreigners. Also, I believe that more of an effort in this area would attract more foreigners (hopefully green coffee buyers) and further grow the coffee industry in Brazil!
The second thing was the organization of some of the cuppings. Often, they were too crowded and the steps of cupping weren’t being followed at the proper time intervals set by SCA. I imagine that this would be a turnoff for green coffee buyers.
All in all, I really enjoyed the event and now feel like I need 24 hours of sleep. I also got to share some of my roasted coffee with people and have tentative plans to do a collab roast with some other roasteries in the future!
Here are a bunch of low-quality pictures with high-quality people. Nothing but love for all the incredible individuals at this event! (click to scroll through the photos)
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