Guest post by Cristina Stefan, Foster undergraduate and Certificate of International Studies in Business student
Through the Certificate of International Studies in Business program (CISB), I had the incredible opportunity to attend the 27th edition of the Specialty Coffee Event, which took place April 9–12 at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. Josef Moreno and I volunteered to work with the honorary consulate of Peru, located in Seattle, to help translate and interpret for the coffee roasters that had come from all over Peru to show their merchandise and enter the international coffee market. For some it was their second or third time attending the event, but for others it was their first time outside of their home country. We did our best to support them and help them in their interactions with the consumers and retailers present at the trade show.
It was an unimaginable experience and a perfect way to put my Spanish language skills to use. While Joe helped with a private meeting among the Peruvian vendors, I interpreted for the coffee roasters–some of whom spoke a very distinct Spanish dialect specific to the region they had come from. I facilitated information exchanges and future travel arrangements between coffee growers, toasters, vendors, and buyers from all over the world who had come to the Peruvian booths to learn about the delicious coffee grown in Peru.
Being so closely involved not only enriched my vocabulary and stretched my thinking, but also opened my eyes to a new industry few people know the details of. Among the coffee types we tried were Geisha, Catuai, Caturra, Colombiana, Arusha, Kona, Java, and Pache. We discovered “cupping,” a very unique coffee tasting technique, using a spoon and very briskly sipping the coffee. Who knew being a coffee taster also requires a specific certification?
We were able to observe how coffee is toasted, bagged, and even roasted and prepared in the different machines and then served. We tried iced coffees, frappes, Italian sodas, and many other delicious coffee based products.
Above all, the cultural experience and the ability to interact and network with professionals in the coffee industry was invaluable. Observing the different negotiation techniques and all the cultural differences based on the country of origin of the attendees reminded me of all that I’ve learned about international business in my classes here at Foster. This was probably the most authentic international business setting I have participated in.