Booths, glorious booths! If you've ever been to a coffee trade show, then you know that the way speciality coffee companies exhibit their goods publicly at these things can sometimes be a bit…dour, especially in the United States. But if you have never been to one of these trade shows – if you're part of the 30% of Sprudge's daily readership that doesn't work in coffee, say – let us set the scene for you:
But Ken Tapdancing Cosgrove, MICE was a bit of a different bag, wasn't it? These were without a doubt some of the most impressive convention booths we've ever seen – whole cafe pop-ups, really, with gorgeous buildouts and a coffee service to rival anything you'd find in a cafe back in town (well, no brekkie, but otherwise…). Here's some of our favorites from the floor scene at MICE, as presented by many of the best roasters in Australia. Be jealous.
The Five Senses booth is a great place to start, as it functioned all weekend as a sort of multi-purpose space, with ample educational opportunities from Australian Barista Academy, and, of course, no shortage of ways to taste and prepare coffee. This booth featured 3 Marco Über grinders, 2 Marco Über Boilers, a Marco slap paddle (UC10), and a Marco batch brewer, plus both a three group and a four group Synesso Hydra espresso machine, which our correspondent Harald Vøyle marked in his notes as “Beeeeast!!!”
Five Senses are the Melbourne distributor of Marco, Synesso, Baratza and Giesen roasters, so that gear was definitely on display at MICE. Theirs was a busy, buzzy booth scene all weekend long.
We talked a little bit about the booth scene here in a separate feature, but check out these deets for what Prouds (and that's what everyone in Melbourne calls them: “Prouds”) were brewing up for loads of guests at MICE. On the brew bar: 1 Mahlkönig EK43/1, five Hario V60s, and a couple of 12 cup Chemexes. For espresso: a three group Synesso paired with a Mazzer Super Jolly. Tasty coffee abounded at this booth, including two stand outs from Costa Rica – the Sonora Villa Lobos and Sonora Catuia Rojo – plus a drop-dead delicious Panama Don Pepe Geisha.
This was definitely one of the best booths at MICE, like a charming, comfortable coffee living room in the middle of the madness. At the center of it all, advocating for his vision of specialty coffee sustainability and transparency, was Proud Mary's owner Nolan Hirte – it was as if he'd invited us all into his rumpus room for the weekend, to geek out and try tasty coffees. And we did!
Aha, the ever-cool Kiwis with a strong Melbourne presence. Supreme's was arguably the most aesthetically gorgeous booth at MICE, because seriously, look at all that blonde wood, and the sloping, sweeping angularity to their use of space. We liked that Supreme's booth was so honed and focused: Slayer and Chemex are distribution partners with Supreme, and so these two brands were prominently on display in their space, without a lot of other distractions. We saw a classic Slayer 2 group, a brand new Slayer 1 group, plus several Chemex brewers and the stunning, all-too-rare Chemex kettle (another original design by the founder of Chemex, Dr. Peter Schlumbohm).
A bold four-way collaboration amongst some of Australia's very best roasters, this booth was something special. Two Melbourne roasteries – Market Lane and Seven Seeds – and two Sydney roasteries – Reuben Hills and Mecca – set aside the naturally adversarial relationship between their two cities (come on, Sydney, why don't you like footie?) to create a truly exceptional booth experience on the floor at MICE.
Espressos from all 4 companies were brewed on a La Marzocco Strada EP. Filter coffee was brewed in a variety of pour over styles, as well as on the Mocca pot. As you might expect there was a holy host of offerings available at this booth, but one stand out was Market Lane's Kenya Kirimahiga – the shot we tried did that deep red stone fruit thing good Kenyan coffees can do, while staying light and floral, never cloying. The best shot of the show? Well, follow your bliss, to each his own, you do you, etc, but yes, this was probably our favorite thing we tasted all weekend.
The soaring air-pump rainbow. The wall of bike helmets. The bicycles themselves, fixed gear beauties, tastefully arrayed throughout St. Ali Family's sprawling, multi-branded installation. And we're not calling it an “installation” as a point of synonym; this actually, really was like a working art installation with a coffee component, plus real-live-fake artificial grass and all manner of artfully arrayed ephemera. Their massive rainbow became a sort of North Star for us throughout the show, a way to orient ourselves spatially amongst the twisting, turning lay-out of MICE.
We've never seen anything like this booth, which felt more like it belonged in some temporary exhibition at The Whitney than it did on the show floor at MICE. They were serving coffee here too, yes, as a part of the Clement portion of the booth. (Have you not heard of Clement yet? There's a full write-up impending.) We also saw gobs of Hario gear on display from Sensory Lab, plus like, vintage cash registers, Melbourne food and coffee scene books, #TeamPerger bike racing caps, A-Z Coffee books, and more, loads more.
The St. Ali Family booth at MICE was ostentatious, immersive, unforgettable, and unlike anything we've ever seen. We're left gobsmacked, almost speechless, reduced to co-opting colloquialism in order to express our true feelings, because when it comes to this booth, all we can say is:
“Good on ya!”
The team at Kaffikaze – Harald Johnsen Vøyle and Ingri M. Johnsen – contributed original reporting and photography to this feature.