Let’s Talk Coffee: Ten Years of the Ultimate Coffee Connections

by Bruce Milletto on October 6, 2012 · 0 comments


Every year, coffee professionals from around the world gather in a coffee-producing country to exchange information, learn, and inspire each other. This year, the tenth gathering of Let’s Talk Coffee, we find ourselves in the Colombian city of Antioquia, located in foothills of the Andes mountains.

Let’s Talk Coffee began ten years ago, and has turned into specialty coffee’s premier conference and training event hosted by Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers. This year, the gathering kicks off the next generation of Relationship Coffee by adding fresh insights to the conversation, examining how to bring the sustainability of the industry to scale, and celebrating the strong network of partners that that has been created over 10 years of Let’s Talk Coffee.

This is the hallmark event that highlights the power of Sustainable Harvest’s Relationship Coffee model. By fostering direct conversations among coffee industry partners, Sustainable Harvest cultivates a community of trust that results in higher quality coffee and reliability throughout the supply chain.

For the past few years, I have had the opportunity to participate in Let’s Talk Coffee, and am always engaged and inspired by the connections I make with the industry – from the producers to the importers, roasters, and thought-makers.

This year event welcomes producers and coffee experts from no less than 28 countries. I would estimate that at least two thirds of those in attendance are growers/farmers, who are here to learn much more about how to produce better coffee and to maintain sustainable practices that will allow them to continue to raise the bar, survive, and profit in an ever-changing world of economics, weather, and global demand.

What is also refreshing is that this conference welcomes speakers from outside the coffee industry, such as Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, who provide insight and examples of how a product needs to go well beyond the store shelf and create value for everyone involved in the supply chain. This insightful session inspired us all to strive to go beyond just selling products, but also touching, enriching, and elevating the lives of those who labor to producing them.  We found inspiration on how to bring “true value” to every aspect of the supply chain – including you, the consumer.

During this year’s event, we have been discussing and debating the issues and challenges we face today as they relate to coffee quality, sustainability, and so much more. Here, we talk a lot about quality, and when we do, we are referring to much more than just taste.  The word quality has far reaching value sets that extend well beyond the practices and benefits that are finally realized in the cup you brew each morning.

What sets this conference apart each year is that it is the only conference I know of where a buyer from a small roaster such as ourselves (Water Avenue Coffee) in Portland, Ore., can, in a few days, have the opportunity to meet with hundreds of producers and establish one-on-one relationships.  Samples are often available and coffee companies can meet with the farmers directly, starting a dialogue, while building friendships — as well as understanding.

In three days and and four evenings life-long friendships are established and seeds are planted that finally turn up in coffee cups around the world.  Relationships that eventually allow the consumer to enjoy that perfect cup of coffee.

The event is a year of long and hard work of a Portland, Ore.- based company called Sustainable Harvest, and the brainchild of one of  Coffee Universe’s Editorial Advisory Board Members, David Griswold.  The concept is nothing less than genius, and of every coffee event held around the world each year (and there are well over one thousand), this is the one event that has, in my opinion, the most to offer the coffee professional. It truly has proven to have the most far-reaching impact on coffee quality worldwide.

Thanks to everyone at Sustainable Harvest for bringing another great event to the specialty coffee industry – and directly to you, the consumer who enjoys a cup of quality coffee. Take the opportunity to create a relationship with the cup of coffee you drink . . . it is no doubt, a wonderful relationship to have.


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