Virtual Reality, Tattoos, Snack Bars, And Other SCA Coffee Expo Booths We’re Excited For


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Every year, thousands of coffee professionals descend upon the Specialty Coffee Association’s Coffee Expo show floor—and consume unfathomable amounts of coffee.

Hundreds of vendors attend the Expo to showcase their latest innovations and—because this is a coffee show—sling some sort of coffee drink. But we all need a break in between that seventh and eighth espresso. So what about the booths serving up something beyond coffee?

We asked around and found eight unique activations that go beyond the classic product demonstration or tasting. These clever experiences and interactive events are a creative and educational respite from all that espresso.

Take An Immersive VR Journey With Cropster

Cropster, Booth #1051

Coffee software maker Cropster reimagined the standard product demo with an immersive virtual reality experience that takes you through the journey of a coffee bean. Patrons put on VR goggles and travel through the coffee value chain, seeing Cropster’s products in action from the coffee farm to coffee shop.

The two-minute experience is meant to showcase Cropster’s focus on sustainability and ethical practices. Also, it’s a nice stop for weary travelers who need a short break from the busy show floor.

Get A Coffee Tattoo (Yes, Permanent) With Mahlkönig

Mahlkönig, Booth #2251

Get a free coffee-themed flash tattoo from local Chicago artist Bob Haase. The line to get one at the 2023 Coffee Expo in Portland was so long that it’s no surprise that grinder maker Mahlkönig brought tattoos back this year. Make sure to show up at the booth to reserve your spot early.

While you’re there, sign up to win one of Mahlkönig’s X54 Allround Home grinders (they’re giving one away each day of the Expo). While you’re waiting for your tattoo, you can also check out the new Sync System, created in partnership with La Marzocco. This Sync System automatically adjusts the grind size on a Mahlkönig E80W GbS using real-time feedback from a La Marzocco espresso machine.

Refuel At The Snack Bar With Created Co. And Foxtrot

Created Co., Booth #2057

Drinkware maker Created Co. is partnering with Foxtrot, a cafe and mini-mart chain with Chicago roots, to host a midday snack bar. Whether you’ve got the overcaffeinated grumbles or just need a quick pick-me-up, head over for a bite. 

Here’s the snack bar replenishment schedule:

  • Friday: 11:30 am and 3 pm 
  • Saturday: 11:30 am and 3 pm 
  • Sunday: Noon 

And make sure to stop by for Happy Hour at 3 pm Friday and Saturday.

Watch A Mini Signature Beverage Competition With Proper Syrup

Proper Syrup, Booth #1957

The 2024 World Barista Championship will take place at World of Coffee Busan, Korea, but there’s still plenty of signature beverage creativity to go around in Chicago. 

Proper Syrup hosted a virtual signature beverage competition via social media a few weeks ago. Nearly fifty coffee pros participated, and the pool has been whittled down to four, who will compete live at Expo in front of a panel of four judges. 

The competition starts at noon on Saturday, April 12th, and samples of the competition’s signature drinks will be available to taste.

Let Artificial Intelligence Sort Your Green With Avercasso

Avercasso, Booth #2452

Artificial intelligence in action! Avercasso invites roasters, farmers, traders, and coffee lab advisors to bring 350g of their own green coffee beans to be sorted live by Avercasso’s new AI Coffee Bean Sorter. 

Join The Legendary Coffee Exchange With Cafe Imports

Cafe Imports, Booth #1436

Make some new coffee buddies! At the Cafe Imports booth, you can bring a bag of roasted coffee, drop it off, and draw out a bag from someone else in return. It’s like Secret Santa, but it’s all coffee. One lucky participant will win an Ikawa Pro 50 Sample Roaster.

You can drop off a bag anytime before Saturday and exchange it right then and there, or wander for a bit and come back later. Make sure to follow up with the roaster and make a new friend.

Watch The 2 Brews & A Lie Challenge With Stronghold

Stronghold Roasters, Booth #1831

2 Brews & A Lie is a coffee cupping triangulation challenge by Cafe Imports and Stronghold Roasters. According to the event’s website: “16 competitors will taste three flights of three coffees. Two will match, and one will not (the lie). The cupper that can identify the most outliers the fastest will be crowned the winner.”

Although all the competitor’s spots are full, you can cheer on your favorite tasters and watch coffee pros put their skills to the test. The competition will take place on Saturday, April 13th, at noon.

Roast Coffee On The Floor With Bellwether

Bellwether Coffee, Booth #1138

Don’t just drink coffee—roast some too! The Bellwether Coffee booth will have active roasters running, so you can live trial their all-electric equipment. Bellwether will supply green coffee.

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Garrett Oden

Garrett Oden is the owner of Fresh Cup, a coffee industry publication for professionals, and Alimentous Studio, a content and copywriting agency for coffee, F&B, and food tech businesses.

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