Pressing Press Pot

Well, 2008's SCAA conference is over; I returned in one (somewhat harried, frazzled, exhausted and pensive) piece last Monday night. If I hadn't had to hit the ground running in terms of my Mon–Fri job, I would have provided this update sooner. My apologies to any Press Pot groupies who were champing at the bit for my particular take on the whole business. (That "groupies" part was a joke.)

The short version is that amazing people were met; informative lectures were attended; copious notes were taken in now-completely-illegible handwriting; blog posts were written on the fly; Prince was listened to in semifancy hotel rooms with no free Wi-Fi; local bars were scandalized and conquered; the USBC was thoroughly photographed; Scott Rao's book was read on the plane ride home; and Ecco CaffĂ©'s Konga–co-operative Ethiopian Yirgacheffe was lovingly consumed at my day job the day after returning (and the day after that, and the day after that…).

Now we're in reflective mode (we meaning me).

I came away from this conference with my head absolutely spinning. Having never been, I had no idea what to expect; having gone, I have no idea what to think. The event was, to me personally, many things at once: inspiring, overwhelming, thrilling, disheartening, motivating, difficult, social, alienating, enlightening, frustrating, wonderful. I hope you don't mind if I work through some of the more complex feelings here.

To be honest, when I first said goodbye to the Minneapolis convention center, I thought it meant I was shelving my tamper for good. I said as much to some friends, and to my husband when I got home. Not because I don't love coffee, but almost because I love it too much, and I love the industry too much. So much so that, like a big family full of tons of eccentric people, it can be incredibly rewarding and incredibly maddening at almost the exact same time. There were a lot of personalities under that roof: A lot of unsavory things were said, a lot of disappointing actions were taken (I'm looking at you, rude guy who was manning the Mazzer booth—consider yourself On Notice) and a lot of proverbial dicks were wagged. But I also saw unbelievable kindnesses, people giddily teaching and learning from other people, shop talked and shots shared, amazing camaraderie, truly inspiring professionalism. Of course, it's the latter list that stands out in my memory, but it's the former list that is, strangely, more motivating.

And the reason this was so overwhelming (and still is, even as I begin to process it) is that I feel so on the outside. I'm not slaving away in a shop, at a roastery, at origin: I work a day job and I make coffee mostly on the weekends. All the books are still in my living room; they're all still thumbed-through and dog-eared. But I don't spend my days asking and answering questions about coffee, and I'm never more aware of how little I know about it than when I'm surrounded by people who know so much.

I want to know more; I want to do more. But I don't know how. That's why I am feeling overwhelmed. In that car, on the way to the airport, I thought, "Either I will have to leave coffee altogether, or I will have to finally dedicate my life to it." It's like someone you've dated on and off for years but haven't fully committed to because the timing hasn't been right. Either do it or don't, but make up your mind, son!

So now I'm taking my time, thinking it through. What in the world am I going to do with myself? Is this a mini existential crisis? Am I being super dramatic? Can I really ever be good enough or smart enough about coffee to make a difference in the ways I would want to? G-d, I love coffee and coffee people so much. This is hard! Any and all advice and reflections welcome, encouraged, begged for.

And beyond all else, of course, a long-overdue congratulations (joining a million other laudatory Internet voices) go out to Kyle Glanville for winning this year's USBC, as well as just for being such a swell guy.

Kyle Glanville

Also big ups to second-placer Pete Licata and third-placer Heather Perry, as well as to all of the finalists, semifinalists and anyone who entered any of this year's contests. It takes some real guts and confidence and love of the craft to go out there, and I'm impressed by all of you. You have so much to teach us.

(Remember, you can still watch all the finalists' performances here.)

Thanks to everyone I got to meet and talk with, who graciously shared their time and energy with me either as a blogger or as a coffee professional. Thank you to my fellow blog-team members, who were patient and funny and fascinating and bold. Thank you to Nick Cho for putting us together. Thank you to the SCAA for existing, and for looking to better itself. Thank you to Minneapolis for letting us crash your party. Thanks to Torani and the BGA for the free photobooth.

And thanks to you for reading, and I am really serious about the advice and information—I need all the help I can get.

You guys are all, seriously, the best.