GUANACASTE – The most important producers, distributors and names of the coffee world met here last weekend for the three-day 23rd annual Sintercafé Conference at the Paradisus Playa Conchal Resort.
The event included presentations from many of the leading representatives of the coffee industry, a competition for the best cup of brewed coffee and a variety of recreational activities for the more than 150 attendees who hailed from Peru, Colombia, Norway, Holland and a host of other countries involved in coffee production.
The 10 presentations addressed many aspects of the international coffee industry, including the effects of the worldwide economic crisis on the market, the continued efforts to develop worldwide sustainable development practices and the perceived effects of the El Niño weather system on coffee production
“The central theme this year was innovation,” said Arnoldo Leiva, president of Sintercafé. “We invited many businesses that presented their ideas on what they’d been doing in response to the economic crisis. It was interesting to see what some of the companies had done to change their strategies, particularly in the areas of developing new ideas to promote sustainable practices.”
Along these lines, Dub Hay, senior vice president of Global Coffee Procurement for Starbucks Coffee, Inc., presented the conference with the story behind Starbucks’ VIA Ready Brew. That brew is an instant coffee said to be produced using of the same Arabica bean formula as the one used in Starbucks regular coffee. Hay said taste isn’t diminished, but costs are reduced because less packaging is required.
Another new trend in the coffee market is the increased focus of growers and distributors on acquiring certification from bodies such as Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade and UTZ Certified (see separate story). These organizations verify and approve sustainable practices of farms and producers and continue to set and redefine the standards of responsible environmental, social and labor practices.
This was the first year the Sintercafé conference was held outside of San José. Though the Guanacaste site offers beaches and some of the beauty of the Pacific region, Leiva said he expects the conference to begin an annual rotation between San José and Guanacaste.
He added that participants typically like to visit the coffee production plants in Alajuela province, west of San José, which are regarded as some of the finest in Central America.