The 2017 Cafe Show in Seoul, South Korea happened just a few short days ago, and for our North American and European readers who frequent coffee and tea trade shows, let us assure you: this is like no trade show you’ve ever seen. The two-story show floor is massive, and yet it still feels like there isn’t enough room for the swaths of visitors making their serpentine rounds.
Anything you could ever possibly need to start a coffee shop is for sale at Cafe Show; as in, plop out some cash and take it home that day. Espresso machines, roasters, serving ware, ovens, towels, hats (so many hats. Fedoras, derbies, even porkpies, you know it), scissors, bathroom signs, gadgets, hoozy-whatsits—it’s all here, it's all for sale, and with its own dedicated booth.
Sprudge staff walked the show floor in Seoul, hunting down all the coolest new tech and fantastic sights that the 2017 Cafe Show had to offer. It’s our pleasure to bring the 11 most notable sights we experienced from Cafe Show Seoul, one of the world's great coffee trade show events.
Mahlkönig EK-43 S
If there was one thing had us all awiggle, it was the slim, chopped new EK-43 S. The counter profile-friendly version of the coffee née spice grinder has been floating around trade shows for a few years now, but those were generally the result of aftermarket mods. This stubby little beauty is coming direct from Mahlkönig, and was highly Instagrammed throughout the weekend in Seoul. Look for them to be made available around January.
“Lord Of The Rings” Inspired Cold Brew Dripper
This thing right here. Just look at it. It's magnificent. We're not totally sure exactly what it is—does it open another dimension? Can it guard against dragons?—other than a very ornate cold brew drip tower. Luckily Sprudge's Lead Photographer and Senior Fantasy Correspondent Charlie Burt was in Seoul and helped to clarify the fantastical provenance of this here dripper. “It’s like if they took a Palantir and put it on top of the tower of Orthanc,” Burt tells us. “You know, a Palantir…one of the lost Seeing Stones?”
We were especially excited to check out what tea would be on offer in Seoul—this is a “coffee and tea show” after all—and we were not disappointed by the many beautiful tea displays at Cafe Show.
Be they brewed, loose leaf, or even green tea in its most raw form, the range of vibrant colors emanating from the tea booths were simply stunning.
The newest espresso machine in the Astoria product line, the Storm, could have made the list of must-see things at the Cafe Show based on looks alone. The angled wooden legs and narrower body bring a new and exciting look to the espresso bar.
But move to the other side of the machine, and the storm is boasting a pretty serious combination of old and new technology. Each group head is equipped with a handle that allows for pulling espresso manually, or baristas can use the dedicated touch screen to set a profile for each shot. Touch screens aren't always the answer, but after seeing the Storm in action, this appears to be a particularly nice and useful integration of tech.
Paper Wall Art
In a delightful twist, there were so many things at the Cafe Show that weren't specifically coffee- or tea-related. There's heaps we could choose from, but these little cuties from Happy Paper were clear team favorites.
Happy Paper doesn't deliver to the States—at least not yet. But luckily, the Sprudge team was able to make it home with three cats, a husky, and a corgi, all of which arrived in our luggage safely.
Cafe Show was a buttery gluten coma waiting to happen. Delicious French-inspired pastries were everywhere, and we sampled as many as we could get our hands on. There were croissant waffles. There were scones. There were these delicious little butter cookies, sprinkled just-so with sugar. Our diet went out the window, but you know what? Life is short.
In American and European trade shows, pastries are typically an also-ran, but in Seoul they would have taken third billing—really this is a “Coffee and Tea and Pastry” festival, which rules. We counted at least a dozen pastry vendors across both floors, optimized for premium show floor snacking. Which one was our favorite? I'm glad you asked…
HRS Stone Roaster
It's a pastry oven THAT ALSO ROASTS COFFEE! Did that just blow your mind? Probably. It blew ours. This oven from Korean manufacturer HRS features a cylindrical mini-drum on the end of a rod (that little jammer in the bottom middle of the photo above) that can be used to roast coffee. One may dial in their roast curves whilst similarly dialing in a nice old world sourdough. Or maybe a babka? What a good idea.
Single-Group La Marzocco Strada
Be still our collective beating hearts: there single-group Strada is real, and it's spectacular. We spotted this darling machine at the booth for Almacielo, a Korean-based green coffee importer. Though we expressed no real interest in purchasing green coffee, Almacielo staff were nice enough to clue us in on the fact that the single-group Strada was released last year in Korea. It's still news to us.
This indoor greenhouse was gorgeous. You could use it to grow your…herbs, and… maybe a few tomato plants to provide a little soil diversity and nutrient distribution for your…herbs. It's got everything you need for growing all manner of many-splendored herbs, efficiently and discretely.
Val:ve Coffee Draft System
The cold brew wars are over, and ready-to-drink beverages won. So much so that entire cottage industries have popped that are cold brew-adjacent. The Val:ve is one of them. There are certainly other manufacturers of draft systems, but the Val:ve may just be the first dedicated to coffee. And the brushed copper finish would certainly be a centerpiece on any countertop.
Manna Mall Lifestyle Market
Ask anyone who has spent an entire day at a trade show, you eat like complete garbage. The only real dietary consideration is how quickly can you get it and eat it. But not at the Cafe Show: this event features an entire market inside the convention. Manna Mall: The Lifestyle Market was replete with fresh fruit and vegetables, juices, nuts, meats, even lime trees, and it was literally giving us life while we were in Seoul.
Zachary Carlsen, Zac Cadwalader, and Charlie Burt contributed to this reporting.