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Specialty Coffee Expo in Chicago Breaks Records

The trade show event featured two World Coffee Championships and had nearly 17,000 professionals in attendance

By Amanda Christensen

During the weekend of April 12-14, nearly 17,000 tea and coffee professionals from more than 85 countries gathered at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood for the 35th-annual Specialty Coffee Expo. The event is owned and produced by the Specialty Coffee Association and is North America’s largest business-to-business coffee trade show. It also played host to the World Coffee Championships for the first time in the U.S. since 2019. This year’s trade show saw a 23% increase in attendance from the previous largest expo in 2019 as well as a total of 602 exhibitors, making it the new record-holder for both highest attendance and highest number of participating exhibitors.

Participant in the World Brewers Cup. April 16, 2024
Participant in the World Brewers Cup || Courtesy of the Specialty Coffee Association

The championships included competitions for the World Brewers Cup and the World Cup Tasters Championship. The former is a showcase of creativity and skill behind hand-brewed filter coffee, and the latter celebrates the talent of those who demonstrate speed, accuracy, and expertise in distinguishing taste differences in specialty coffees. Both competitions are held in front of live audiences and are culminations of local and regional qualifiers.

For the World Brewers Cup, Martin Wölfl of Austria placed first, Wataru Iidaka of Japan took second, Ryan Wibawa of Indonesia placed third, and Tom Hutchins of Australia placed fourth. For the World Cup Tasters Championship, Dionatan Almeida of Brazil took first place, Aurore Ceretta of Germany took second, Han Jong Lee of New Zealand placed third, and Jonathan Rangel of Guatemala placed fourth.

Winners of the World Brewers Cup. April 16, 2024
Winners of the World Brewers Cup || Courtesy of the Specialty Coffee Association

In addition to the championships, attendees of the event enjoyed two new features of this year’s trade show: the Green Coffee Connect program, which provided interactive programming for those selling or buying green coffee; and the Retail Buyers Lounge, which offered opportunities for retail buyers to network, meet, and explore potential business partnerships with exhibitors. Eventgoers also had access to new products and equipment, lectures, workshops, and several networking events.

The 2024 Specialty Coffee Expo also hosted the 2024 Sustainability Awards, with the nonprofit winner being Root Capital, and the for-profit winner being Sancoffee. Additionally, the 2024 Best New Product Awards were given to seven winners for items like coffee accessories and additives, while the 2024 Coffee Design Awards went to three recipients for components like branding and packaging.

Attendee trying coffee sample at Specialty Coffee Expo. April 16, 2024
Attendee trying coffee sample at Specialty Coffee Expo || Courtesy of the Specialty Coffee Association

The McCormick Place Convention Center spans more than 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space, providing a near endless array of options for various layouts and event styles. It offers 173 meeting rooms, six ballrooms (two of which are the largest in the city), a 10,000-seat arena, and more.

coffeeexpo.org

mccormickplace.com

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