Our intrepid coffee party reporter (and New York City Desk) Liz Clayton returns with the final part of her heroic cataloging of the party scene at this years’ Specialty Coffee Association of America Event.
Whew! There’s nothing like coming off of three great days on your feet in a convention center to make you want to party. Saturday night would be a night for some to blow off steam–having not made it to the finals round of their coffee competitions–or to have a quiet, early night in in preparation of said finals. For others, it would be a chance to see all the coffee pros they could before tearing down their exhibition booth and hopping on a plane at 5pm Sunday night. Whatever your agenda: Saturday night would never be more Saturday night than tonight.
As has become somewhat of a tradition, I slipped off before the dinner hour for a quiet drink with Mike Phillips and Charles Babinski and crew. It was a mostly quiet pre-party. Charles’ competition coach, Ben Kaminsky, enjoyed a rum-based cocktail while plotting his evening of hot-tubbing, while the rest of us…actually, I have no idea what the rest of us did, because before I knew it, veteran competitor Mike Marquard had seated himself at another table in the bar, awaiting his St. Louis homies. Suddenly a large-scale Tiki love bowl style drink descended upon our table, bamboo straws protruding from all directions–“This is a gift from the man over there,” our waiter said, gesturing to Mr. Marquard. The night was off to an ice-crushing start.
I then headed off to a perfectly civilized dinner at a table with no more than four people (this is exceptionally hard to do at SCAA, unless you’ve been working on perfecting an offensive body odor), I urged my dinner companions–Michael Elvin, Mariella Luz, and James Hoffmann–to join me for what promised to be the party of the evening, or rather, the only party I knew about. The Roasters’ Guild were throwing a big to-do at the World Sports GrillE (home to comedian Katt Williams’ famous pool-cue-brandishing breakdown last year). Perhaps my dinner companions, two of whom had to drive home to Olympia that night, might wish to shake a little booty at a two-storey sports grillE? Who wouldn’t, right?
En route, I received a few brief reports on the scene. “Toooooo long in the rain”, dispatched 2012 US Barista Champion Katie Carguilo, who had already bailed for a different establishment. Indeed, as Elvin pulled the car around the sharp angle of Westlake Ave, all we could see was an endless line of coffee people waiting on line in the rain, slowly having their IDs checked and being admitted only when other partiers exited. But wait–what was that spacious room with the broad windows jutting out onto the streetcorner? A dance floor? Completely empty except for David Latourell? This party was upgraded to a can’t-miss, no matter how much rain we’d have to endure.
After our wait in the drizzle, we burst onto the scene. Immediately I took in critical information from various other partygoers. The videogames were set to free. There was an upstairs but it was just as loud. Jared Truby currently held the record for 727 punches in the punching game. And the wait for drinks at the bar was a minimum of 30 minutes. Though Roasters’ Guild parties hold a high reputation for debauchery, it seemed the understaffed bar would be hard pressed to keep up with the fuelling requirements of a sweaty throng such as this. I took detailed notes, such as “wet feet” and “biggest coffee party”, hit the dance floor for awhile, and waited out the rest of the night upstairs. By the time I’d stopped playing with [redacted]’s Tinder account, it was time to call a taxi. Outside, the announcement for last call broadcast through speakers aimed at the sidewalk. Terrifying. I peeled off my wet shoes and drifted off to pleasant slumber.
Sunday, Sunday……oh yes! Sunday. The last night to celebrate amongst my peers. Owing to the generosity and industry of my dear friend Mark Luecke, road barista and sound engineer for Yo La Tengo, who not only delivered me a banh mi at the convention center but took my heavy luggage away with him, I was free as a bird to party the night away. After congratulating Laila Ghambari on winning it big, I ambled up Pike with a shaggy lot for some drinks and food. Much low-key conviviality and iPhone charging ensued, kebabs were unskewered into mouths, and at last, it was time to party hardy.
Traditionally, the Sunday night party is hosted by the Barista Guild of America, and as these parties often have the chaotic energy of the fete I’d just attended at World Sports Grille, it was hard to imagine how the BGA might top this night. But as I pulled back the curtains to enter Trinity nightclub, I knew they’d pulled it off. From the moment those migraine-triggering strobe lights hit my corneas to the magic sound of the DJ playing an ear-blasting song whose lyrics seemed only to be “SHOTS! SHOTS! SHOTS! SHOTS!”, I knew I was in the right place.
Luckily, Trinity is one of those nightclubs with heaps of rooms to choose from. Assuming you could make your way across the dance floor alive, there were lots of places to explore, and sneak off for political conversation with someone nice you’ve just met. At least that’s what I assume happens here. Though I was fascinated by a blue, bathroom-themed room that I was told smelled of urinal cakes, I was quickly whisked by the tides towards a back room that contained a pile of fur boas and a photo booth. Memories were sure to be made here tonight. I found a great place to charge my iPhone and received a text from my bar manager cousin, wondering what my excuse was tonight for not seeing him. “I’m at a party at Trinity,” I responded. His text back simply read: “GROSS”.
I encounter Milwaukee, Wisc. resident Sam Brown, who despite seeing my quarter-empty beer and reporter’s notebook, accuses me of not working. I take a session in the photo booth and sit for a wee chat with a few other Midwesterners–one of whom lets me know my photo booth picture is now being projected over the SHOTS! SHOTS! dance floor. The only note I have written down for the rest of the evening is “help”. I find a shorter route outside, call an Uber cab, and hang out politely next to the sausage truck and homeless people while I fantasize about my friends’ waiting apartment, their waiting cats sleeping on handmade quilts, a tall glass of water, and an exciting year of parties ahead. Seattle, it was truly real! Let’s do it again soon!
Liz Clayton is Sprudge.com’s NYC desk writer, based in Brooklyn. This marks her third consecutive year covering the up-late culture at the SCAA Event. Read Part 1 of her 2014 experience here. Read Liz’s dispatch from 2013 here. Read here 2012 report here: Part 1 and Part 2.