Sintercafe 2012

“Miradas en el Campo” by Magda Córdoba Suarez. Detail from the winning painting in the Grano de Oro coffeecentric art exhibition held in conjunction with the conference.

Last week Costa Rica’s Sintercafe held true to its tagline and connected the coffee world. Over 400 producers, processors, exporters, traders, financers, analysts, roasters, distributors and even a few baristas converged at San Jose’s luxurious Intercontinental Hotel for the 26th annual conference, recognized as the most significant coffee event held in a producing nation.

Two days of presentations addressed both the past year’s successful innovations and developments as well as the impending challenges the industry will confront.

Held in the wake of hurricane Sandy, Sintercafe 2012 was not billed as a summit on coffee and climate, but it could have been. All presentations echoed the industry’s need to prioritize a response to climate related effects on operations from production to distribution.

In addition to the challenge of reacting to, and preventing against, climate change, the industry faces a period of potential oversupply. Keith Flury of Rabobank International discussed that the 2012-13 supply reaches levels not seen in a decade, and the drop in prices from last year’s rally is largely in reaction to that increase in supply.

Innovations on the farm reach all the way to consumers. Brazilian Arabica is emerging as important single source product as well as a desirable ingredient for blends. The potential for granting internationally recognized Denomination of Origin certifications to estate coffees (similar to those awarded to vintners) reflects the continued push for a consistent increase in quality across the industry and the trend of offering new ways for growers to participate in the market.

A spirit of measured optimism permeated both formal presentations and informal discussions; China is on the horizon an emerging market, as are producing nations like Indonesia and Mexico.

The conference culminated with a field trip to La Eva farm and processing mill about an hour outside the city. Around 50 attendees elected to follow coffee back to its source, and many participated in the hands-on experience of picking ripe cherries right off the trees.

Throughout the conference attendees enjoyed beverages prepared by some of the country’s most talented baristas and savored the finest coffee offered by Costa Rica, which Doug Welsh of Peet’s Coffee and Tea recognized as, “the most organized coffee producing country in the world.”

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