Putting the BOO in BOOTH: SCA Coffee Expo

Some slightly bitter reflections on the values of the Specialty Coffee Association, with a touch of unpleasant acidity and a tainted defect note in the aftertaste.

We were so anxious and a little excited to have our first Sweet Maria’s booth every at the 2020 Specialty Coffee Association Expo in Portland. It was cancelled of course. FFW to 2021 and the SCA Expo in New Orleans. Not cancelled, but pushed forward to Sept 30-Oct 2. You know, when COVID was over and we were all vaccinated, right?

Yesterday we cancelled our booth there. SCA will refund 0.0% of our booth fee, and offer no credit for the future.

Can I ask employees to go to a critical COVID zone and ignore their safety concerns? No. Should I ignore my own concerns: No.

How does it feel to go to a place in the midst of a health crisis? When emergency services are stressed, hospital beds are filled, and sane people are masked and minimizing indoor socializing. How does it feel to go to a place like that when COVID has disproportionally implanted the poor and people of color … like the wonderful and diverse people of New Orleans. (I know, I lived there for a year way back).  How does it feel to go to their town to conduct business, socialize, have some beer, dine and party, in the midst of many who cannot afford financially to fly around and gab with their compatriots in coffee as a business expense? (Airline ticket SFO to NOLA bought 4 months in advance, $900). None of that feels right to me.

To me a convention is a sort of invasion of a locale, where people come in with their own agendas and are relatively blithely ignorant  about local issues: it’s a momentary thing like drive-by tourism. Yeah, I don’t really like conventions much. So how does all that feel at this moment? For me, it feels like a pretty shitty thing to do. 

I realize that’s me, and probably many in NOLA and everywhere want visitors, want tourists, want conventions. They want the money to flow and jobs to come back. They want bars and restaurants filled. That’s completely understandable, and if SCA was being held on a smaller scale in a safer place with low infection rates and a population who was well vaccinated, I would rethink my cancellation, or think harder on it.

SCA is a member organization. My sense is that if they did the right thing and cancelled the 2021 show they would be in trouble, like bankruptcy type trouble, like legal / contractual trouble.

If I felt like I was on board with SCA decision making and ethos, I would feel empathy for that, and it they asked, I would donate my booth fee to the organization. But as is, it’s hard to feel aligned with a member organization that stiffs its members and makes poor decisions, like not simply cancelling SCA 2021 back in March. They gambled that we would have defeated COVID by now and New Orleans would be a great safe place to party in September. Good one…

SCAA Party Fun!

Photos scrounged from web circa 2007

SCA Coffee Convention photo 2007, SCAA

2 Responses

  1. Very sorry to hear this, but very understandable. I was interested in attending as this is close to home, but I had the same concerns, so I held off registering. I noted you wrote this prior to Hurricane Ida hitting the area and causing damage and power loss throughout NOLA and the surrounding areas and it is expected to be out for several weeks. Are they still planning on holding the event? I was also considering joining SCAA, but now I don’t think so. Was looking forward to meeting some of the SM crew. Maybe at a more safe and appropriate venue.

    1. Hopefully there will be a better time and better place soon! I am sad this isn’t going forward and New Orleans would be a great venue. And you are right, this was pre-Ida comments so I just can’t imagine the impact now. It doesn’t seem right, but if some businesses feel they can go to the show, focus on coffee, and make it work, great. I just have a feeling there won’t be many… and some vulnerable people cannot go. (A friend who has had a medical procedure and has a weak immune system can’t go. We were likely going to collaborate on a booth.)

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