Vendors swap tricks of the trade, peddle their wares at Coffee Fest
In an espresso-fueled city, the java pushers sometimes need a place to talk shop without the hordes asking for a refill. This weekend, that place...
Seattle Times business reporter
In an espresso-fueled city, the java pushers sometimes need a place to talk shop without the hordes asking for a refill.
This weekend, that place for 8,000 coffee-shop owners and employees was the 15th annual Coffee Fest at the Washington State Convention & Trade Center, where 365 vendors displayed espresso machines and steaming pitchers, flavored syrups and biscotti.
"I love these little stoppers," Janie Reynolds of Puyallup exclaimed over tiny plastic plugs that fit into cup-lid openings. "We're planning to do deliveries, and these are ingenious."
Reynolds and her husband, Larry, scoured the show gathering ideas for a Forza Coffee franchise they plan to open near the Puyallup Fairgrounds.
The stoppers, called "coffee kisses," cost 2 cents each.
They are among the most affordable items at Coffee Fest, which is not open to the public.
Faema espresso machines from Italy cost $5,900 to $9,000 with discount from Atomic Espresso Supply in Sumner.
An automatic version that tamps, grinds and brews at the touch of a button costs $15,000, but "that one is not popular in the Northwest because of the connoisseurs," said Atomic sales and marketing manager Laurie Sanborn.
For coffeehouse owners roasting their own beans, a 5-pound roaster from Ambex Coffee Roasters & Grinders of Florida runs about $6,500. A 33-pound roaster is $15,900.
Two of the priciest items at the show are shops on wheels. One called The Coffee Lab is a van that Nancy Saltzstein drives around Missoula, Mont., dispensing coffee outside businesses, sporting events and concerts. For an initial investment of $125,000 to $150,000, she will show you how to start your own coffee shop in a van.
The other mobile shop is a retro aluminum trailer outfitted as an espresso stand. It runs $49,900.
Coffee Fest opened Marcia Johnston's eyes about the drive-through coffee stand she plans to open outside a strip mall in Sturgis, S.D.
"I thought you get the building, buy the machine on the Internet and there you go," she said. "I never knew there was so much to learn. ... Coffee here means a whole different thing than what it means in our area, where it's slowly growing."
Johnston figures startup costs for the drive-through will run about $20,000, not including the $795 cost of a three-day seminar her business partner is taking at Coffee Fest.
The show includes barista training and certification programs, a latte art competition and classes such as "Essentials of Water — What the New Café Owner Needs to Know" and "Wrestling the Mermaid — Competing with the Chains."
Allusions to Seattle-based Starbucks, the world's largest coffee-shop chain, were sprinkled throughout Coffee Fest, from the mention of its mermaid logo to vendors such as Donsuemor Madeleines touting the presence of their products in Starbucks stores.
Other vendors talked about international connections.
Renton-based Stirling Foods ships flavored syrups to customers all over the world but has a hard time cracking the Seattle market, although Stirling products are used by the Seattle chain Espresso Vivace.
The Seattle roaster Caffé D'arte sells its beans as far away as China and Hong Kong, and to countries with rich coffee histories, including France and Italy.
"Coffee culture in Seattle is so well-developed that we're sort of on the cutting edge," said Jeff Babcock, proprietor of Zoka Coffee Roaster & Tea Co. "In some other parts of the country, they're brand-new and don't quite get it yet."
Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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