Coffee-loving Seoul

World Barista Champions. Costumed syrup bottles. Huge numbers of coffee obsessives.

Those were just some of the sites at Seoul’s Coex Convention Center in November, as specialty-coffee professionals from around the globe gathered over five days for two events: the World Coffee Leaders Forum and the Café Show. In recent year’s, South Korea’s reputation as a coffee-crazed nation with a rich café culture has surged, and the show backed it up in the sheer number of attendees. According to Café Show organizers, more than 101,725 people from 63 different countries attended the 2013 event, which was open to the public for two of its four days. (That’s a vast uptick from the 2012 show, which drew 72,800 attendees.)

At the week’s other event—the World Coffee Leaders Forum—more than 800 participants from 34 countries took in a curriculum that included plenary sessions, in which industry leaders discussed the future of the global coffee industry; technical courses where experts shared their knowledge in hands-on fashion; and World Coffee Adventure sessions, in which representatives from coffee-producing countries discussed their respective nations in detail.

Among the notable plenary session presenters were Bai Feng of the Beijing Coffee Association, who discussed the rising coffee market in China, home to the world’s fastest-growing economy; Napoleon Matute of Honduras’ IHCAFE and Santiago Pardo of the Colombia Coffee Growers Federation, who discussed their nations’ strategies for combating the coffee-rust crisis; and Geoff Watts of Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea, who covered the company’s approach to delivering top-notch coffee.

The technical courses were highlighted by reigning World Barista Champion Pete Licata, who delivered a presentation on his competition history before stepping behind an espresso machine and breaking down his craft for the crowd.

This was the second installment of the World Coffee Leaders Forum following its 2012 debut; Danny Shin, the event’s chair, called the event a success. “I believe we matched and perhaps even surpassed participants’ high expectations for the event,” he says. “We attracted large crowds and heard very positive feedback from attendees for all of the events. As the first event of this kind in Asia, our event has helped expand Asian interest in gaining knowledge about the coffee industry.”