Wednesday, October 4, 2006

World-of-Coffee, Bern, Switzerland

The beverage industry seem to be having a hard time reaching the youth you observe if you have a look at all the more recent products launces attempts at pleasing the youth. Cola Blak, a coffee essented soft drink or CafĂ© Fresco ice coffee in a ready-to-go cardboard cup from the cool-shelve. The youth allegedly dislike warm drinks because they are not refreshing and dislike the bitterness of coffee preferring sweet. 

Speaking about coffee, there was certainly something boiling at the World-of-Coffee in Bern in May, something that must be reaching out to another audience than the Bacardi Breezer youth. The World-of-Coffee is an annually returning fair, every year it takes place in a different city, this year 9300 attendees. At the fair The world championship of Barrista and the world Championship of latte art is held, yes you heard me right! Complete with fan-crowds in supporter t-shirts, real-time big screen projection, jury and participants from different countries.

The Crowd
The Crowd

This year Klaus Thomson from Denmark won The World Championship Barrista. Now Denmark is not exactly the first country that comes to mind when one thinks about sophisticated coffee drinks, theatrical coffee bars and coffee connoisseurship. And what may also sound unbelievable is that that Stockholm has one of the most vibrant of coffee cultures in Europe according to the Wallpaper Navigator. So the phenomenon of the new coffee culture is reaching far beyond the borders of the traditional caffionista countries like Italy, France and Spain. And the new coffee drinking seems to be about something quite different to the traditional coffees served in Mediterranean countries. The new coffee culture includes drinks like Frappuccinos (milk slush w/instant coffee) or Expressionista (ice expresso w/jasmine and maple syrup) something that would only make the head of an Italian shake disapprovingly. The Italians are all about refining the classic recipes to perfection.

UK’s Jame Hofman during WCB

The Jury evaluates
Cafe Latte Art

OK, back to the world-of-coffee even if we still fail to understand how this event is sponsored, it certainly is for sure it does a good job at pulling coffee drinking to another level, a level beyond the social lubricant, inoffensive, breaking-the-ice-drink that coffee is often tagged as in Northern Europe. Firstly there was the already mentioned hyped World Championship Barrista, there was the coffee tasting panels, coffee conferences, coffee workshops and as it suits a fair; exhibitions by different companies and producers of hard- and software.

The coffee tasting panel was a row of tables of people in white jackets very laboratory like. Different crops of coffee was tasted and given points. The jury would not just sit and drink coffee cosily, they where tasting the coffee in a way that could only remind me of how a wine-connoisseur would taste a glass a wine, carefully noting down all the different sensory experiences that the coffee would cause. Talking about the origins of the coffee using wine-like vocabulary: Cru and Grand Cru. An activity obviously being taken very, very serious by the panel members.

The coffee conferences where arranged around 3 themes; Traceability, Origin Countries, how to be a winner and the best cup; all offering a day of lectures around the theme. We had the opportunity to attend 2 lectures; the history of Cappuccino and CoSIC, the worldwide panel of coffee scientists. Joanne Smits sr. product designer for Espresso listened to “the history of cappuccino” and learned that the current coffee rave has a lot to thank to the Italian immigrants in the North-West of US. They imported Italian espresso machines with dual boiler systems and re-interpreted Italian coffee culture to a US-version that includes softening the taste by increasing the use of hot milk, making the drinks healthier by using low-fat milk and creating a cosy atmosphere with sofas that invite for longer visits.

I listened to CoSIC, the worldwide panel of Coffee Scientists that statistically proven does a great job at converting the public opinion about coffee. Whenever some bad publicity is in the media the panel of coffee scientists step forward and publish their scientifically correct contra propaganda; the not assuming but really researched knowledge about coffees effect on the human body etcetc.

The where workshops in the areas of roasting and grinding, brewing, Barista grinding, tasting, ingredients, home equipment and coffee recipes etc. co-ordinated by experts in the filed. The workshop “cooking with coffee” was given by Chefs from “Cercle de Chefs de Cuisine de Berne”, who taught how to create coffee-flavoured sauces to serve with your roast.

So when some people say that coffee drinking is on the way to becoming the new red wine one could follow the lead after having visited the world-of-coffee which certainly leaves one thinking that the art of coffee making and drinking is being elevated to a higher level involving sophistication and connoisseurship.

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