COFFEECON 2017: The Tasty, The Bad, The Extra
NEW YORK — A place where you dare not say the “S” word (Starbucks for those uneducated in all that is coffee) — New York City’s 2017 CoffeeCon took place on May 13th, in its new location at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea. This year’s event was completely revamped, focusing less on the coffee itself and more on the instruments used to brew the specialty beans.
“I only invented CoffeeCon because I wanted to attend it…I’m not even in the business,” said creator and host of CoffeeCon Kevin Sinnott.
So what is CoffeeCon?
Of course, visitors can be sure to find coffees from all around the world. From beans that come straight from Café Ñucallacta in Ecuador to New York’s very own Oren’s Daily Roast beans that mimic the fruity taste of Ethiopian coffee — the variety of coffee was definitely what one would expect at a convention that targets consumers. And the food selection was on par, as well, including everyone’s favorite coffee companion treats such as muffins, cupcakes, and even juices for when the coffee crash comes later.
Yet, the event was heavily based not on the beans and the coffee, but instead on the process of making the coffee — and more importantly the items they could sell, the coffeemakers.
That’s right. A convention that brands itself on celebrating the global taste diversity of coffee actually undermines its own messaging by blatantly promoting its own sponsors.
Enter in Chemex. Ask any vendor, and you’ll have the same rehearsed spiel.
“The Chemex was actually invented in New York City did you know that?,” said one vendor from the OXO booth.
“The guy who invented it was named Schlumbohm, he’s from New York. It’s been around since the 40’s. It’s finally catching on,” says another vendor from Birch.
“I only recommend coffee out of the Chemex. It’s super clean and it’s super easy. For New York, it’s perfect,” says Michael from the official Chemex booth.
“I don’t know how people can drink coffee not made in the Chemex. It just doesn’t taste good at all,” said another vendor from the Reanimators Coffee Roasters.
But let’s break this down. What exactly is a Chemex?
If you didn’t understand already…
The Chemex is an hourglass shaped heat-resistant glass that’s dressed up with a wooden collar in the middle (complete with it’s own tie). The collar works as an insulator. With the grinded coffee placed in the top half of the glass in a coffee filter, the hot water is self-poured over the beans in a slow motion, up-and-down pattern.
What’s the point?
With the coffee only coming in contact with the filter and the non-porous glass, the Chemex makes coffee that is true to its original flavor without any bitterness or leftover sediments. And since the coffee is so pure, if it is reheated it will not lose any of its flavor.
Don’t understand the hype…still?
Well, that makes sense. For as the vendors might understand to a point of snobbery, a lot of visitors at the event did not.
“Extra. That’s my word for it,” explained patron to the event and coffee vendor, Emma Christin.
“I honestly don’t have time for it. Early morning I need my coffee I don’t care how it’s brewed,” said another visitor, Aleesha Seenauth.
“I came here to taste the different types of coffee. I love coffee. I thought I was pretentious about it. This Chemex nonsense…waste of time. In the morning I want my coffee immediately. I don’t have time to waste making sure I pour it and that it drips correctly. Who really does?,” said a very agitated guest, Gabriel Romano.
But don’t let these participants mislead you. There were a few who were very interested in the products for sale.
“I love this. Everyone’s here, enjoying a cup of coffee. Lots of cups of coffee. Plus the way its brewed here you can’t beat it. I bought a Chemex…and you need the filters too. I freakin’ love it,” said Mike Fairfield, a photographer at the event.
CoffeeCon 2017 was all about how to make the coffee rather than the coffee itself, that much is true. You can even see it from the way the event was structured. Big signs for the Chemex instrument can be seen from every crevice of the building.
Yet, CoffeeCon goers can’t be too surprised. The event after all is labeled with a subheadline “The Consumer Coffee Festival.” The event was always going to be about the product that makes the coffee than the actual coffee. And while some people may wonder why anyone would even want a Chemex — who has the time in the early mornings, especially with a city that’s as fast-paced as New York? — what everyone has to remember is that this festival was targeted with a specific audience in mind.
It wasn’t meant for those that are perfectly fine with a Dunkin Donuts brew, or those who are content with an instant Folgers coffee to start the day.
No, this event was designed for those who appreciate the aesthetic and elegance of making a good cup of coffee.
Last year, the U.S.’s leading brand in coffee (regularly grounded coffee to be exact) was Folgers Coffee that ranked in at $1,241 million. But those private specialty labels came in third place at $374.6 million.
That is whom this convention, and the Chemex, is targeted towards. The people who are interested in specialty coffee.
People who believe, taste over convenience is what matters.
And as it’s ranked in third place last year, a step up from 2015 where it ranked fourth, it’s clear that this particular audience is on the rise. So who knows, while we may knock the Chemex now, maybe the vendors are right. Specialty coffee is on the rise…and only time will tell if it makes it to the top and stays there.