Budapest comes alive for World of Coffee

In the 2014 hit song Budapest, British artist George Ezra describes the city as a “hidden treasure chest”. Soon enough, that treasure chest of specialty coffee coffee shops, historic pubs, thermal baths, royal palace, and vibrant night life will be on display when the international coffee community unites for World of Coffee (WOC) and the World Coffee Championships.

The Hungarian capital will not only host Europe’s premier specialty coffee event, but for the first time WOC will be held by the newly formed Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), the amalgam of the Specialty Coffee Associations of America and Europe that officially came into being at the beginning of this year.

Executive Director of the SCA Ric Rhinehart says it is an exciting time for the specialty coffee industry around the world as it is entering a new era of increased cooperation and collaboration. “World of Coffee Budapest will be our second big event this year under a unified organisation, and we’re expecting thousands of other like-minded and dedicated individuals who believe in the same future for specialty coffee that we do to join us.”

Ric says that the new structure will not undermine the local focus of the event.

“Of course, we understand the importance of local knowledge and strive to connect every individual with the resources to improve their opportunities and make their voice heard on a global stage,” he says. “We’re listening to our members and are always trying improve our events. Being a part of this community means that we recognise the importance of collaboration, and we’re always striving to be better.”

The focus of this event will be on finding common ground for all members of the industry to meet.

“Collaboration and hospitality are the key words for this year’s event, as we’ve reached a point in our industry in which one cannot live without the other, and both are an essential condition for quality,” he says.

A stalwart feature of the show is its Best New Product of the Show Awards, which always attracts a lot of attention and can signal future developments for the industry. With a jam-packed agenda for the days of the event, WOC will feature a number of seminars covering a wide variety of topics, with speakers from all walks of the industry touching on coffee from a complex array of perspectives. A prominent feature will be The Village, which will showcase state-of-the-art roasters, cutting-edge technology, as well as representatives from the local Budapest coffee scene.

“This is an area buzzing with cuppings, tastings, and conversations, as well a ‘get to know us’ opportunity for small roasters and baristas,” says World of Coffee’s Show Manager, Garret Buckley.

The World Championship rounds of the World Coffee Events competitions are always a highlight of any show they are staged at, and this year’s World Latte Art (WLAC), Brewers Cup (WBrC), Cup Tasters (CTC) and Coffee in Good Spirits Championships (CIGS) are bound to be no exception, with Australian representatives Aaron Dongsu Shin, Sam Corra, and Yama Kim representing each event respectively. (Stay tuned to www.beanscenemag.com.au for all results.)

While these events continue to capture the imagination of the coffee industry and the general public alike, this year will see the introduction of new elements to keep things interesting. The WLAC has been growing so much in popularity and participation that a new free-pour focused semi-finals round is being introduced. The WBrC is seeing increased service flexibility and tighter quality controls, while the World CIGS equipment procedures are being streamlined to increase competitor accessibility.

Another addition to the main event is the Sustainability Forum, which is returning to World of Coffee for its second year after a successful debut in Dublin in 2016. “The Sustainability Forum was a big step forward for the community – it opened a conversation about existing sustainability approaches and initiatives in coffee, as well as exploring possibilities for improvement, and it included actors from the whole value chain, including coffee producers, NGOs, roasting companies, and others,” says the SCA Chief Sustainability Officer, Kim Elena Ionescu.

Building on last year’s conversations, this year will see a more focused approach on to the specialty coffee actors involved in the seed-to-cup (value) chain.

“The continuation of the Sustainability Forum is a unique opportunity for the SCA to reach a large audience with information to address the fundamental challenges facing the coffee value chain – both at present and in the future,” Kim says. “Not only are we seeing the effects of environmental pressures, such as climate change, but also social and economic aspects which need to be viewed holistically, as they’re all interdependent.

“The Sustainability Forum will keep the conversation going by reminding people involved at both producer and consumer ends of coffee how much of an impact we can have as an industry.”

With thousands of international representatives expected to make their way to Budapest in June, local café owners are preparing for the influx of guests eager to explore and critique its local coffee scene.

Such anticipation is building for My Little Melbourne Owner Diána Balázsi. She says hosting the premier coffee event is an honour for the city, and it’s specialty coffee culture.

“Everybody thinks it’s a big thing. Europe hosted WOC in Dublin last year and Vienna in 2012, which was quite close to us. Since then more than 50 specialty coffee shops have opened in Budapest and countrywide, which means a minimum of 150 trained baristas and their relatives and friends already know how big a deal this is. But even if we’re talking about it with non-coffee people, they say ‘wow.’ We’re all vey excited.”

My Little Melbourne was born out of Diána and her husband Pete’s love affair with Australia’s coffee culture after visiting relatives five years ago.

“We visited Melbourne for four weeks in January 2012, and after that we opened My Little Melbourne in April that year,” Diána says. “Last year we were in Melbourne again for five weeks and had the chance to check out 110 specialty coffee shops in the city and surroundings. We are truly amazed by the Australian coffee culture and love it – beautiful coffee shops, and fantastic design, ideas, and machinery.”

As such, Diána says My Little Melbourne became the first independent specialty coffee shop to open in Hungary and the first independent brew bar. This started a boom of rapidly growing specialty coffee shops, including Diána’s four other coffee shops.

“We succeeded in keeping this quality and still being recognised among the top five specialty coffee shops in Budapest after five years,” she says.

The popular venue has also established a barista school with a certified SCA trainer, a step Diána says is necessary to further grow education within the city.

For Aussies planning to do a tour of Budapest’s specialty coffee shops while attending WOC, My Little Melbourne will be a welcome home away from home, with familiar items and produce to curb any home sickness, such KeepCup, Mörk Chocolate, Prana Chai, Cargo Crew aprons, and Byron Bay cookies. Either way, Diána will be waiting at the door, ready to welcome you to Budapest.

Image credit: Nora Hunyadi of Gastrografika