As The Chaff Settles: TEDCoffee Recap


42 volunteer baristas, 5 WCE staffers. Mission #TEDCoffee: complete…for 2014 at least! It has been almost a week since our team of baristas rounded out a wonderfully eventful 5 days of coffee & tea service at TED2014 in Vancouver and at TEDActive in Whistler. Our team, with the help of 26 incredible partners, and the guidance and wisdom of the BGA, smoothly and professionally operated 7 full service bars and 11 self-serve stations in two cities. We had the pleasure of utilizing 5 different brewing methods while serving coffees that highlighted local roasters from Canada, as well as coffee that was shipped across oceans from New Zealand and Taiwan. On top of that, we helped facilitate the debut of TOM’s new roasting venture. All the while bringing together a community of coffee professionals from across North America to work side-by-side towards a common goal. Not too shabby!

Matthew Williams of WCE remarked, “The success of coffee service at TED was the result of an extraordinary group of baristas. They were adept at handling the unique challenges of operating a temporary bar in a busy venue. They made awesome tasting coffee and they engaged with TEDsters in a way that everyone should be proud of. Hats off to a great team!”

Our dedicated group of volunteers really pulled through, working passionately to spread the word (and taste) of specialty coffee to the eclectic group of literati roaming the Vancouver Convention Center and the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. This made for a very unique experience as Jonathan Paul Doerr of Portola Coffee Lab in Costa Mesa pointed out.

“You are at this incredible event working with the best of your peers in the industry, serving amazing coffees and having an amazing time; but yes, that was a Nobel Prize winner you just served a soy cappuccino. And yes, your heart stopped while you were pouring it. Coffee at TED2014 is the most fun and enjoyable coffee experience I’ve been a part of. A constant flow of energy pulses through the space you are in. It is infectious. There is, however, a heaviness in some of the topics that are being discussed. You are a buffer though, and you stand in the decided safety between the trenches. The openness and free flow of ideas can only take place when there is a gap between things. At TED we facilitate that gap, but also provide the joy and intensity that permeates the conference.”

We are extremely excited to announce that WCE will be managing #TEDCoffee again next year, so please check back for updates on TED2015 and TEDActive. And check out some choice pics at our Photo Shelter Gallery!

WCE would like to send out a humongous “Thank You!” again to everyone who helped make #TEDCoffee 2014 so great!


Potent Quotables: Alex Negranza on his TEDCoffee Experience


This is the second year in a row that Alex Negranza of Seattle, Washington, has volunteered his skills and talents to the coffee program at TED; both in 2013 at TEDActive in Palm Springs, and again this year at TEDActive in Whistler. Mr. Negranza put together a wonderful video for us that highlights the coffee/tea service in Whistler this year, and also explained what inspired him to participate in the TEDCoffee experience:

“Despite our communities and cultures, taste preferences and training, there’s a beautiful thing in coffee that unites us all: it’s the drive to serve someone a coffee that changes the way they approach their morning ritual. Almost a decade ago, I was entrapped by the idea that if I couldn’t understand something as simple as a cup of coffee, how was I going to take on the rest of my day…. and down the rabbit hole I went. I spent years reading, training, traveling, and countless sleepless nights of over-caffeination trying to wrap my head around a way to serve up that “A-Ha!” moment to a consumer. That moment that the light bulb clicks on…that moment when we share something that transcends the morning ritual…that moment when we, as baristas, turn into culinary alchemists and share black gold to a palate that’s only known charcoal and ash: that moment, created by depth and breadth of flavor and a story of scores of people united by a cause across handfuls of countries. Sure, it is something as simple as a cup of coffee- but nothing is ever as simple as it seems. And everything starts as an idea.

I’ve said it once, typed it three or four times and I’ll probably tweet it again- being a part of TED is one of the most inspirational and empowering things someone could ever experience. It’s hard to say what the coolest thing at TED was… Technology? Human Rights? Medical Advancements? Architecture? Biology? Aerospace? Edward Snowden Robot?! Selfies with aforementioned Snowden Robot?!?! Sure, those created unforgettable moments, but the coolest thing about TED for the coffee service was stripping down the baristas from our home machines, the comforts of our coffee bars, our favorite customers and coffees, removing the indie-branding and type-facing, letting us forget about our restored vintage knick-knacks and refurbished beech wood bars to remember that we share a common goal and story united across communities and cultures. We volunteered our minds and bodies for six long days. We served the idea of specialty coffee. We shared the goal of sustainability. We curated the service of that “A-Ha!” moment over and over again. And at the end of the day, we quietly bowed out, packed up, and went home to do it all over again.”

TEDCoffee 2014- Coffee Worth Sharing from World Coffee Events on Vimeo.

Behind the Scenes @ TEDCoffee 2014


While they may not have been in-your-face at the stations, there were many things happening on back bars, behind closed doors, in hidden hallways and under counters in Vancouver and in Whistler that involved people and partners whose contributions to TEDCoffee were invaluable. All day, every day at TED, our rotating “BREW CREW” of 3 to 4 baristas could be found weighing, grinding, brewing, filtering, re-stocking, and running around to the 9 self-serve stations to ensure that all of the coffee and tea were available and at top quality for the over 2000 speakers, attendees, and staff at TED and TEDActive. Without the help of Bunn-O-MaticStealth Coffee Systems, Curtis, FLO-JET,  Global Customized Water, Visions Espresso, and Reg Barber, our coffee/tea service would’ve been a real drag.

Both BUNN & Stealth Coffee Systems provided us with grinders for batch brewing, including the MAHLKÖNIG EK 43, an industry sweetheart that allowed us to consistently and swiftly grind coffee for the masses. BUNN even provided us with their very own Rusty Angell, whose technical savvy and always-sunny disposition made everyone’s TEDCoffee experience even brighter 🙂

The wonderful Mr. Rusty Angell, of Bunn-O-Matic

FLOJET, as well as David Beeman and Stacy Ingram from Global Customized Water, allowed us to have exquisitely clean, filtered water constantly pumping to our espresso machines, hot water towers, and brewers,  which were provided by Curtis. Not to mention all the small wares from Visions Espresso and Reg Barber that our baristas used to tamp, steam, rinse, and serve the most delicious coffee possible at TED. Thank you again for enabling us to make the coffee and tea service at TED and TEDActive a huge success!


Self-service set-up @ TED Vancouver

Potent Quotables: Mike Strumpf On The Swiss Water Process


While at TED, we had the pleasure of sitting down and chatting with Mr. Mike Strumpf, who, aside from being a Licensed Q Grader, SCAA Instructor, SCAA Competitions Committee Member, Roaster’s Guild Advisory Council Member, and Head Judge, is also the Green Coffee Buyer for Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee Company here in Vancouver. He happily obliged to answer some questions about his job at Swiss Water and explain some details of the process:

World Coffee Events (WCE): So, your position with Swiss Water is Green Coffee Buyer. Can you explain the different ways that your company interacts with roasters?

Mike Strumpf (MS): Yeah! There are more or less 2 different business channels: One is called tolling. Tolling is when a roaster owns coffee and then send it to us and we are the toll processor. No monetary transaction of buying coffee; we just take possession of it for a couple days, decaffeinate it, and then send it back to them.

In addition to tolling, we also go out and buy green coffee, decaffeinate it, and then sell it, rather than simply selling the processing. We don’t roast for sale though. We roast for evaluation, and we roast what we drink in the building. We have a production roaster so that we can speak about production roasting which really helps a lot, because it is much different from sample roasting. Just having a sample roaster is great for evaluation, but it doesn’t help us talk about the end product. We like to be as knowledgeable as possible because a lot of the job is educating accounts about how to roast decaf properly, and how to serve the best decaf possible.

WCE: How does roasting decaffeinated coffee differ from regular roasting?

MS: The roasting is similar, but you have different cues. If you are going by color, you’ll see a similar progression of color from light to dark, but it’s kind of like a different Pantone swatch. Your starting point is different, so even though your progression follows the same path, it starts at a different point, so what you expect at 3 minutes will be a different color than expected. I have a background in production roasting and sample roasting, and so I do a lot of work with people on how they can fine tune their roasts, which is tricky, because we aren’t trying to tell people how to roast  coffee so we have to listen to them about what their roasting style is and then try and think about what they can do differently.

WCE: How many decaffeination plants exist as far as you are aware?

MS: There are about 20 decaffeination plants in the world, but we are the only one that really markets our brand as strongly as we do, and we are really the only ones that do direct-to-consumer marketing.

WCE: In my experience with decaf coffees, when you hear a coffee was processed by Swiss Water, you know it’s going to be good…

MS: Here’s the thing – The secret to decaf is that if you have good coffee before it’s decaffeinated, you have good decaf. Which shouldn’t be a secret, but that’s the key, and so that’s why the toll processing program is really great. Because if you are a roaster and you already buy great coffee, you can offer the exact same coffee in regular and in decaf, and your customers already know that farm or coop and that works really well. Otherwise, if you don’t have enough volume to process your own decaf, you have to go with someone like us who is selecting the green coffee and decaffeinating it. But it’s hard to give up that control.

WCE: Can you explain the process of decaffeinating the beans?

MS: Of course! They all work in about the same way. First, you soak/steam beans (makes it easier to extract caffeine when they are moist), then you just need a medium to remove the caffeine from beans, and then you have another process to remove the caffeine from that medium, and then you dry the beans. And that’s decaffeination everywhere.

WCE: What makes the Swiss Water Process different from other processes?

MS:The difference comes in asking: What do you do to soak/steam the beans? What’s the medium? How do you remove the caffeine from them? The big difference is the medium that we use is what we call green coffee extract (water saturated with flavor-soluble solids of coffee) So caffeine is a soluble solid…it just brews out with water. You put beans into this extract, because the soluble solids are at equilibrium and the extract is in the beans, the only thing that brews out is the caffeine. The flavor never leaves, it just stays in the beans. What is very unique to us is how we remove the caffeine from that medium. We call it the Proprietary Carbon Technology: use columns of carbon to remove the caffeine from the extract, but to not remove the rest of the soluble solids. And that’s what is proprietary about it is that it is custom for us and we have to manage the whole process and make sure that it is working properly. This is what allows us to decaffeinate without the use of chemicals.

WCE: Most companies sell off the caffeine after they extract it. Does Swiss Water also do this?

MS: We are pretty much the only people that don’t sell the caffeine. We put our carbon through a reactivation furnace which allows the carbon to be used again. We are organic certified and as far as I am aware there are less than 5 certified organic decaffeinators in the world.

WCE: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about before we finish up?

MS: I’d love to return to the subject of coffee sourcing – the fact that you have to trust us to buy your coffee means you have to know who we are, and having face to face interactions really helps, so that’s why we support events with WCE/SCAA/SCAE. We are the same specialty coffee professionals that the roasters are. That is why we support this kind of event, along with almost every other WCE event or competition.

WCE: How are the sentiments about decaf coffee changing in the specialty coffee world?

MS: We are serious about specialty coffee. And it starts from within, because even in the industry, it’s a hard paradigm to break away from and it’s happening slowly, but it is happening, and people are not thinking the same way about decaf where it’s simply an afterthought. For example, the type of service held here at TED, with farm-specific decaf alongside the farm-specific regular coffee; there is just as much information about decaf coffee, and it can taste just as good, but you have to give it the same amount of attention. When a process comes out perfectly, the coffee tastes the same.


Learn more about the Swiss Water Process at their website.

Amanda Whitt Gets By With A Little Help From Her Friends


Amanda Whitt, of Everyman Espresso, talks to us about using crowdsourcing to fund her trip to TED Vancouver:

I was a last minute addition to the roster. I saw a friend post about getting their badge [for TED] so I e-mailed [BGA Executive Council Member ] Cole McBride to see how I could get involved next year. He let me know that a few of this year’s volunteers had recently backed out, so I contacted Laila Ghambari, also on the BGA Executive Council, who sent me the application for this year’s WCE/TED collaboration. I had just finished the NERBC competition, which was a week of lost wages, and New York is a really expensive place to live on a barista salary. In addition, I work for a small business that is unable to give us paid vacation at this point. I was inspired in part by Amanda Palmer’s 2013 TED Talk “The Art of Asking”, which empowered me to feel comfortable about asking for help from others. My company, along with my customers and the coffee-community-at-large, fully supported and promoted my crowdsourcing efforts. We have a lot of opportunities as baristas to participate in interesting coffee-related events, but many of us can’t afford to take the time off to do so. In this case, I chose to use crowdsourcing as a solution, but I think we should work to come up with ways to make these kind of things more accessible and talk more openly about this kind of thing in the specialty coffee industry.

Potent Quotables: Riley Paterson


Mr. Riley Paterson, of Visions Espresso in Seattle, on his first TEDCoffee experience:

I worked at 3 different stations, and was assigned to the brew shifts at all of them. I make pour overs all the time…I have a Chemex at home, so I’m used to that part, but the parameters for brewing for that volume of people was something I’d never experienced before. It was great because I got to use a Hario V60 at the first station, a Chemex at the second, an Aeropress at the third station, AND with three different coffees at that. It was also really cool to see what the coffee scene in Canada had to offer…that Matchstick Washed Ethiopia was DOPE, the Elysian Rwanda was awesome, and TOMS is off to a good start! I think it’s interesting that many of us have mentioned that a large part of our experience at TEDCoffee is the idea of drawing attention to the concept of equality, over just service per se, for example, how we are trying to change the perception of specialty coffee as a profession. We want to magnify the idea of hospitality, while still expressing the desire to establish expertise. I wonder what kind of experience the TED attendees are having after interacting with us…does it translate to them?

Tea Time @ TED


TED Coffee isn’t just about coffee, not by a long shot. Every year, we’ve deepend our tea offering, and offered a tea service every bit as exciting as our coffee service. TEDsters often indulge in coffee to fuel their imaginations in the morning, but as the day wears on, begin to explore the nuances of tea with its fragrance, mystery and exoticism.  A great new addition to the bars this year is the Breville tea brewer, allowing us to serve elegantly brewed teas like delicate Ti Quan Yin oolongs with their famous aromatics and delicate astringency intact. Amazing partners Harney and Sons, the Tea Smith and Tealet have curated an amazing assortment of teas for us, which not only delight TEDsters, but educate our own coffee-addled palates. Tealightful.

“My very first …



“My very first interaction with a stranger here at TED was with a man who gasped when he saw my “Specialty Coffee Association” badge. “Do you guys do the coffee here?!?” He said, “you guys changed my life!”

This TED attendee went on to say how he drank terrible coffee before, but our service turned him on to a different kind of coffee. He said he drinks less coffee now, because he is so satisfied with the flavor he gets from Specialty coffee, which he gets from high quality roasters he learned about from us. His enthusiasm was palpable and overwhelming.

This small victory represents our front-lines experience here at TED. Influential people, who may not value or celebrate coffee coming in, who may never set foot inside a specialty coffee cafe, are exposed to the glory of great coffee in a setting where they are receptive and open. And when we honor that receptivity, great things can happen. We’re winning, you guys, and changing lives all over the place.”

SCAA Director of Symposium Peter Giuliano, on changing lives at TED with coffee

La Marzocco Feeling Right at Home @TED2014



Over the past few years, an interesting emergent phenomenon has made itself felt at TED. It is, in short, everyone’s dream home espresso bar, starring the GS3. We send the message that great coffee is available at home with our pourover service, and we get to do it with espresso too. We’ve been demonstrating excellent espresso, beautiful milk, and easy deliciousness to eager, self-motivated home baristas. Awesome.

Holdin’ Down the Chateau at TEDActive!


Check out some of the amazingness that has been captured of our stellar barista team at TEDActive in Whistler!


Credit: Marla Aufmuth


Credit: Sarah Nickerson


Credit: Sarah Nickerson


Credit: Sarah Nickerson


Special shout-out goes out to Detpak for providing these lovely cups! The Whistler crowd wouldn’t have been nearly as “Active” without portable caffeine 🙂