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Ooh, Canada: A Preview of the TED2014 Coffee Service

The Vancouver Convention Centre, home of TED2014.

The Vancouver Convention Centre, home of TED2014.

This is a big year for TED. The annual meeting of minds in the worlds of technology, education and design — among other arenas of thought — is celebrating its 30th anniversary as it kicks off March 17. TED is also physically separating from its Silicone Valley roots, with a new home in Vancouver.

If you’ve had the opportunity to attend any of the recent conferences, you know that something quite extraordinary has been happening with TED’s coffee service. While TED has always had reputable coffee suppliers, a concept/project called Coffee Common emerged several years ago, bringing together roasters, equipment suppliers and volunteer baristas to elevate not just coffee quality, but also the service. Coffee Common became a kind of ongoing TED talk, an additional education experience led by some of coffee’s brightest minds.

(more: Nordic Barista Cup Organizers Cancel 2014 Event)

Last year, TED formalized a partnership with the Specialty Coffee Association of America and its Barista and Roasters Guilds to take over the service, with baristas manning seven pop up bars throughout the TED and TEDActive conferences. Their goal, the SCAA said, was to deliver “the caffeine that fuels conversations, along with insights about coffee’s role as a culinary treasure and unique economic web that connects farmers, artisans, and coffee lovers all over the world.”

With this year’s move to Vancouver, TED’s coffee service is officially being run by World Coffee Events, the Dublin-based event-management organization founded by the SCAA and the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe. So what’s in store? SCAA Symposium director Peter Giuliano says the coffee service is going to be “paradigm-busting.”

(more: Specialty Group Coffee Common Announces Dissolution)

“Extraordinary representatives of the Barista Guild will craft coffees at a network of coffee bars, featuring special coffees from Canada and other exciting coffees from around the world,” Giuliano recently announced on behalf of World Coffee Events. “We continue to be committed to collaboration, exploration, and excellence, and to spreading the word of specialty coffee among the unique TED audience.”

(more: The Good Food Awards: How it Works, How to Win, and Coffee ‘Elitism’)

Specifically, this years TED and TEDActive will involve seven full-service bars (five in Vancouver and two in Whistler) open 10-plus hours per day, with more than 40 baristas (check out the full barista roster) preparing espresso drinks, manual coffee brews and loose-leaf teas. From WCE:

Each bar will have special programming and drinks available, including latte art demonstrations, coffee tasting, and training on home brewing methods. Each of the coffee bars is custom built and stocked with La Marzocco machines, grinders by Baratza, Mazzer and La Marzocco. Variable tea kettles will be used for tea service from Breville Canada, and the manual brew methods will include V60/pour-over by Hario, aeropress by Aerobie, French press by Bodum, and Chemex by Chemex.

With the move to Canada, TED is getting its coffee from a short list of highly respected Canadian roasteries, including Matchstick Coffee, Phil & Sebastian, Elysian Coffee and Salt Spring Coffee.




TED is really more of an organization of self-ego-stroking puffery… of people who use scientists and entrepreneurs to do their bidding and make themselves look smarter by their association. Nassim Taleb nailed these guys accurately years ago with their “Dance for me, monkeys!” approach to intellectual enlightenment.

This is exemplified in the 20-minute format of information exchange they pioneered — which is akin to the infographics of video: all style and very light on any actual substance, where people prefer to be entertained rather than informed.

It disappoints me that the coffee community has fallen for their overtures to drum up obedient coffee service monkeys for their events under the guise of joining their elite status of enlightenment. It’s really that distasteful.


I definitely agree with you that the presentations are more polished to put on a good show rather than bestowing some profound bit of knowledge. That being said… the way that I view them (and maybe it’s just me) is that they are conversation starters; a way to introduce a topic in a way that will stick with people, rather than a white paper being read out loud mirroring the PowerPoint presentation on-screen.

Longer form lectures with a Q&A period are a better way to get information and ideas across to people, but that would limit the number of speakers and topics that can be covered.

As far as the elitist self-congratulatory nature, at least it’s not Davos.

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