After three gruelling years, Australia’s biggest coffee events are returning to Melbourne this September. The industry is ready to make up for lost time with a week’s worth of activities to unite the coffee community once again.
The pandemic was economically devastating for Australia’s hospitality industry. Businesses along the coffee supply chain adapted on the fly to changing restrictions, technology, markets, and business models, all while largely isolated from industry peers.
Now, after three years of postponement and cancellation, this September the De’Longhi Melbourne Coffee Week will bring Australia’s coffee sector together in person to compare notes, secure essential contacts and partnerships, and celebrate making it through years of seismic upheaval.
Event sponsor De’Longhi will kick off the week with a launch party on 27 September. The following four days will see product launches, cuppings, training courses and the Asia-Pacific region’s largest dedicated coffee trade show, the Melbourne International Coffee Expo (MICE).
Wrapping up the week on 30 September will be the World Barista and Brewer Championship Final, crowning the world’s best barista and brewer. The event will conclude with a bang, with several official after-parties scheduled to conclude the week’s festivities, essential items on the industry’s social calendar.
More than 200 companies will exhibit at MICE2022, showcasing the latest and greatest in roasting, equipment manufacturing, green beans, cup packaging, dairy and dairy alternatives, ancillary suppliers and much more.
Exhibitors include large European and United States manufacturers, growers from across South America and Africa, and strong representation from a growing Asian market.
Simon Coburn, General Manager of MICE, says he feels a buzz in the air when he talks to exhibitors and attendees about being face-to-face again in the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.
“In a normal year, MICE would expect about 11,000 attendees. This year, after three years with almost no in-person industry events, we could easily see 15,000,” says Simon.
The industry landscape has changed dramatically since the last time Melbourne Coffee Week ran in 2019, according to Simon.
“Companies have changed business models, found new markets, cut costs, and upgraded digital platforms, all with very little – or no – industry contact,” he says.
“Part of the appeal for attendees is definitely the chance to size up their peers and see what everyone else has been doing.”
But the main attraction for industry players, Simon says, is the opportunity to put their latest products in front of decision-makers in the café industry, who will be trying equipment, tasting drinks, and meeting contacts face to face.
“We have international companies who have displayed at MICE many times over the years. Seeing them sign up again for the 2022 expo confirms how much value they see in attending,” says Simon.
The sophisticated Australian market is a draw for international companies testing potential new bestsellers, according to John Jang, Executive Director of Japanese manufacturer Hario.
“Australia is leading the world’s latest coffee culture trends. That’s why international companies, including Hario, pay attention to MICE and want to be recognised in the Australian coffee market.
“At MICE 2022, Hario will introduce manual bruising instruments, which we think will further develop the coffee brewer trend which we began with the V60,” says John.
John says he will be closely observing how the new instruments are received at MICE to confirm the support of the coffee industry.
Other exhibitors will be keeping an equally close watch on the outcome of the MICE Product Innovation Awards, which judges new coffee equipment, accessories and novel beverages in a number of categories.
Manufacturers aren’t the only ones showcasing their latest products on the world stage at MICE. Farmer and coffee growers’ associations from around the world will be displayed in Origin Alley, many of whom will demonstrate select green beans in the nearby cupping room.
“MICE introduced a cupping room in 2018 to create a dedicated space for tasting. We see roasters, traders, coffee boards and farmers use it – it’s a great educational tool for those sourcing a specific type of green bean,” says Simon.
For those seeking ready-to-use beans, Roasters Alley and Roasters Marketplace will feature a mixture of well-known specialty brands and boutique specialty roasters.
“There’s so much to choose from. It’s great to see all the different options side-by-side, but it could get overwhelming if you go in without a plan,” says Simon.
“I’d recommend attendees pick one product to hunt per day, whether that’s a milk steamer or a new bean variety. Check the online guide, mark off the specific stalls to visit and just hit those.”
Skill shortages remain a key problem facing the hospitality industry, with tens of thousands of job vacancies across Australia despite government support and the slow return of overseas seasonal workers.
To support up-skilling domestic workers, MICE is offering a series of training courses for baristas at beginner and intermediate level over the four-day event. Other courses will cover topics tailored for a wide range of knowledge, from basic skills for a general coffee lover through to industry training in the Australian market.
Aspiring baristas can also be inspired – or intimidated – by seeing the world’s best baristas compete under pressure at the World Barista and Brewers Championships.
Heats will be held daily from 27 September. Competitors from around the world will go head-to-head to produce multiple coffees, including espresso, milk beverages and signature drinks, while judges award marks for presentation and creativity as well as taste and flavour.
“Australia is the first country outside the United States to host the world finals twice,” says Coburn. “The last time was in 2013, in what was only the expo’s second year. Having the privilege to host the championships for a second time reflects the strength of our coffee industry, and the international scale of the expo, which has grown from just a national celebration of our coffee market, to a global one.”
Coincidentally, the 2013 expo was the first time John attended MICE, bringing Hario’s sleek glass equipment to a receptive Australian audience.
“I was impressed in 2013 with Australia’s coffee culture and passion,” John says.
“We are deeply moved this event will be held in Melbourne again. I hope it will be an opportunity to overcome adversity and revitalise the coffee industry.”
For more information and ticket sales, visit internationalcoffeeexpo.com
This article appears in the April 2022 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.