Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend Sensory Summit, hosted by the Roasters Guild at UC Davis. This is the third year the Roasters Guild, who hoped to host an event to complement Retreat, has hosted this incredible weekend. It’s designed to “…educate, inform, and inspire the Specialty Coffee professional”, and works with the growing coffee department at UC Davis, partnering academics with industry professionals to host lectures together.
As with many of these events it was a pretty cost-prohibitive, and the demographic of the attendees was demonstrative of this limitation. But although there wasn’t very much economic, racial, or gender diversity, there was a wide diversity of careers present. Here, I was able to brush elbows with coffee producers, importers, business owners, roasters, QC professionals, trainers, and baristas.
Although the lectures are fascinating – and they really are – the best part of my experience at Sensory Summit was the conversations I had with this cross section of the industry. Over meals and at break times, I was able to chat with qualified, interested professionals from all sides of the supply chain about a wide range of topics than engaged us both. I’m lucky enough to live in a vibrant and supportive coffee community in the Bay Area, but getting the opportunity to have these important conversations with colleagues and friends I don’t see everyday in an environment expressly dedicated to learning and pushing the boundaries of our industry is a unique, and much appreciated opportunity.
The lectures were also fantastic. In particular, I enjoyed the focus on beer this time around. Two lectures were dedicated to the subject, which meant I had time to absorb some basic information on the subject before diving into the nitty gritty of how beer brewing works, and how the extraction process compares to that of coffee.
It was also great to see the work that William Ristenpart, the director of the UC Davis Coffee Center is doing, and especially rewarding to see that some of our projects at the Crown are intersecting with UCD’s research. Bill’s lecture on “Physical and Sensory Measures of Brewing Coffee” was particularly informative. He’s done research on how the geometry of the brew device (flat bottomed versus cone brewers) affects extraction as well as sensory perception. This lecture led to a lot of animated questions from the attendees – more than any other lecture – but Bill told us we’ll have to wait till next year to get any more info out of him. Like most good work, it will take time to collect relevant data.
This was my second year in a row attending Sensory Summit. Getting to see the momentum that’s built from year to year is so satisfying – I was able to make connections to things I had picked up last year, and work with a greater depth of knowledge learned from speakers who gave lectures at both events. Luckily, you don’t have to go year after year to get the injection of inspiration and professionalism that this event produces. It’s a firm reminder that our industry is passionate and dedicated, and willing to push the boundaries of our knowledge in search for better techniques and more accurate information. It’s a beautiful opportunity for us to come together to realize we’re all on the same team – we all want coffee to grow, flourish and taste delicious.