CCW 2023: 10 things we learned (and some epic highlights!)

Friday, 4 August, 2023

Creative Coffee Week 2023 was held at The Station Urban Events Space in Durban last week - bringing together the top Coffee Professionals from around Southern Africa, with 6 distinguished International VIP guests that shared their knowledge and learnings with the SA Coffee Community. It was an incredible three days of community, sharing and celebrating - with a lot of deep thought and discussion around the global issues of coffee in a Southern African context.

There were tears, there was  joy and laughter, there was a marriage proposal and an arm wrestle (a literal one) which cemented the core values of what it means to belong to this incredible community.

So how do you distil 3 absolutely jam packed days into a short blog post? You don’t. You can’t. It’s not possible….you will HAVE to come and see it for yourself in 2024. But until then, here are 10 things we learned and some epic highlights:

1. Coffee is Community.
Bringing together the best minds in coffee from around the world to South Africa is vital if we are to keep up with international trends - and not in isolation, but as a community. We learned so much about the coffee value stream this week, and behind every portent of that are great humans - all with their own challenges - but without each other we are nothing! The friendships made and the bonds forged from 3 days of coffee activities really shone through strongly this year!

2. South Africa is at the cutting edge.
Yes, we have a lot of problems - load shedding, the rand, we’re far from anything else in the world….the list is a long list, however - we are doing a really great job and many of our cafe’s roasteries and coffee shops are right up there with some of the best in the world. Can we do better - heck yeah! We have so much to learn and a long way to grow - but the core business of roasting and serving great coffee, we’ve doing many things right!

3. We are Africans and we are leaders on our continent.
We might be far away from the rest of the world but are we doing a lot of things right! Our actions, our people, our decisions influence the rest of the continent and we must never forget the impact that has on the rest of Africa.

4. We still have a lot to do to empower Women in our Industry.
This discussion is more and more relevant each year, and it really felt like finally the guilt and defensiveness around this critical topic has lifted so we can get on with auctioning it. Everyone in the room knows it, everyone in the room agrees with it - women are the backbone of African communities and need the recognition, remuneration and opportunities to equal, if not better that of men in coffee.  

5. We really suck at table tennis!
The inaugural CCW Championships was a pentathlon of coffee events  - while it was serious coffee discussions and learnings in the morning sessions - the afternoon sessions were for fun - for bonding and for making real connections - hence the 3 per team event (all members had to be from different companies) and 9 events, ranging from a Coffee Quiz, to tag-table tennis, latte art, guess the origin and more…we are quite good at coffee things, but we’re not going to win the table Tennis World Cup!  

6. We love to compete and we’re good at it!
SA Aeropress Champs & ASITD finals - These competitions were brought to a close and celebrated the winners at CCW. We had excellent discussions around WBC and what SA needs to do collectively to make a Finals and win one day. From grassroots through to the highest levels - competition makes us better!

7. We are resilient and we are mindful  - as people - as businesses.
It was a humbling experience to see so many coffee legends in one room - to learn from them, to be inspired by the legacies and to feel the energy of the new generation coming through. It is hard to do business in Africa - but the people and the businesses that were represented at CCW23 showed that we can overcome anything and we are aware of the many challenges facing our importers, roasters, baristas and businesses owners - plus our farmers and producers. We are strong together and we have learned together.  

8.  We have great coffee available to us!
We cupped and tasted so many great coffees -  each day was jam packed with tastings and cuppings - and it goes to show what an amazing job our green coffee suppliers in this country are doing and how many talented Roasters we have.

9. We are on the leading forefront of technology
From Genio’s AI roasting machines, to La Cimbalis, off the grid espresso machine, to the Global launch of the San Remo X-ONE grinder and Nuova Simolelli’s WBC spec Mythios M75 grinders on show and available for our coffee community shows that we are are leading when it comes to the best of the best technological coffee advancements in the industry.

10. Our coffee community is only as strong as its people - and we have wonderful people! 

In the last 15 years our coffee industry has come a long way - from the original Godfathers of Specialty Coffee (who were present in the room) to the new crews of 5th Wave coffee trailblazers, from the large chains (also present in the room) to the husband and wife micro-roasters and everyone in-between, we have a core of very passionate and committed coffee people who care deeply about the industry. We may have our challenges, but with people of the kind that attended CCW in 2023, we know our industry has people with  a great set of core values and a purpose bigger than their own and their own businesses - and we are excited to see where this passion takes us!

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