16 May 2016

Laura Lee

Director of Business Development, World Coffee Events

Can you tell us a little more about your role, and how you came to be a globe-trotting events expert?

I was referred to a position at the Speciality Coffee Association of America in 2007. They told me that I would get to drink really good coffee and work in sales. At the time, I was pretty fresh out of university and really eager to try anything. The industry sounded intriguing enough, and I knew it could lend some travel, so I said, “Sign me up!” Flash forward a few years, and the two Speciality Coffee Associations of Europe and America jointly founded World Coffee Events, their event production arm. I started full time with WCE in 2011 and began to fill my passport pretty quickly! Currently I look after the lion’s share of the revenue for the company, which includes working with our host partners in different countries around the world, raising sponsorship, and working closely with our network of nearly 60 national bodies.

Your job has taken you to some pretty far flung destinations, but the question is…who makes the best coffee!?

The answer: It depends. It’s amazing to see the cultural relevance of coffee around the world, and each country places it’s own impressions on the consumer. I have tasted remarkable coffees in all different parts of the world, prepared by so many dynamic people who are all passionate about the product they are serving. It is truly inspirational. If I had to pick a few really special coffee spots that have made an impression on me, I would have to list Penny University (pop-up by Square Mile circa 2010), Proud Mary in Melbourne, Coffee Seed in Seoul, 3FE in Dublin, and my hometown favorite, Augies Coffee.

The speciality coffee market is booming, what are your trend predictions for this exciting sector over the next 12 months?

The speciality industry is growing all over the world. We are seeing innovative retail concepts cropping up in Latin America, throughout Asia, and even revivals in Eastern Europe, the birthplace of the coffee house. I would keep an eye on the more mature markets, such as Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the States to track trends. We are seeing a lot of consolidation and cross-cultural influence. You can now find amazing espressos in the States and pour-over in Italy. Overall, coffee is here to stay, just as is tea and other legally addictive commodities that prove to be a health advantage to all drinkers.

If you could share a coffee with anyone, who would it be?

When it comes to a coffee event, it truly feels like a reunion. My job has given me the opportunity to work with and develop relationships with dynamic people in coffee all over the world. For me, it’s not necessarily who I would go to coffee with, but it would be having the time during one event to get to have coffee with everyone, before I have to rush off to the next event or home to my family.

Finally…what can we expect from the World Barista Championship finals in Dublin this year?

We are launching a brand new livestream portal, that has all the bells and whistles for our over 60,000 online viewers. They can engage in a better live chat platform and watch each of the Champions compete over the 4 days.

WCE will also be announcing some changes to the competition format to roll out in 2017. Very exciting stuff for the coffee world, as baristas continue to lead innovation in the market. My lips are sealed for now, but I encourage all readers to check out www.worldbaristachampionship.org from 22-25 June 2016, happening in Dublin for all the details.

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