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Spinning from so many ideas at Seattle Re:co Symposium

Seven days in Seattle, and my head is spinning. Not from caffeine but from all that I learned at this year’s Re:co Symposium, which preceded the annual Global Specialty Coffee Expo.

I heard speakers on a multitude of topics, from microbiology and coffee fermentation processes to the economics of sustainable farming. Key takeaways for me:

  • Think globally, act locally as you plan your production strategy.

  • Coffee is affected by its landscape and other crops grown nearby.

  • Preserving crop diversity is critical for the long-term health of the coffee industry.

  • There are many ways to reduce risk in coffee production, build trust with farmers and create profitable incentives.

  • Roasters and NGOs can collaborate to ensure coffee farming communities have food security, access to healthcare, gender equity, education, training in good agricultural practices, access to credit and climate change adaptation.

  • Yeast can help control certain diseases. Presentation from Lucia Solis of Scott Laboratories made me wonder how yeast could possibly mitigate potato defect.

  • A blind man told me how to get more out of cupping by developing my senses. Blind since birth, Dr. Henry Wedler is a food and beverage sensory expert who described how smell and taste work especially well together.

  • I heard examples of innovation and cooperation across the coffee value chain. Coordination of investment and data gathering is essential for the economic success of the East Africa region.

I came home with so many new ideas and connections. Understanding microbiology can help improve the quality of cherries and the fermentation process. Understanding people can help create a sustainable economy with schools and farmers who own the results of their carefully cultivated coffee harvest. Burundi is well-positioned to take advantage of the world’s rising demand for specialty coffee.

There is so much potential in my country. I will be there for the first harvest later in May and will report more news from the farms on my return.

Until then, savor your specialty coffee!

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