Walking through the exhibit hall, very quickly my backpack and tote bag were bursting with sample bags of coffee, tea, mugs and pastries. There were dozens upon dozens of vendors offering sample cups of their coffee, tea, espresso, frappe, smoothies, syrups, pastries or juices. About half the vendors were displaying products such as espresso machines, industrial juicers, coffee grinders, brewers and attendant tools to the trade.
Since the target audience of this convention was restaurant owners, cafe managers, baristas and other food service industry professionals, there were other vendors present such as printers, label makers, cup makers, cup top makers, plumbers, water filtration, design and construction, billing, management, cardboard cup holders and box makers for portable coffee containers.
I wasn't taking notes while I was there but did accept all the free stuff they were passing out to people. Many of the vendors were passing out sample cups of coffee or tea so I don't remember who they were as the evidence of their offerings were quickly dispensed with. The vendors who gave me free stuff, and if they printed their information on the labels, I can write about them.
Another thing I learned while speaking to most every one of these vendors is that most of the coffee companies, whether they grow, roast or package, give back to the community in some capacity. Especially the coffee companies who get their beans from poor communities and countries. Many of them are proud that they give ten or forty percent of their profits back to the communities and workers who grow the product. So, here are a few of the vendors:
COUNTING SHEEP COFFEE
Now you can enjoy your coffee in the evening and get a great night's, sleep. Their natural decaffeinated coffee is blended with organic Valerian root to create a great tasting coffee to help you unwind after a long day.
ASTORIA GENERAL ESPRESSO EQUIPMENT
This was another espresso equipment company demonstrating machines I've never seen in any cafe near me.
COFFEE SHOP MANAGER
Coffee Shop Manager is a point of sale system designed to include features such as tablet order entry, integrated online and smartphone ordering, kiosks, loyalty programs and gift cards that make customer service and payment easy.
DAVID RIO OF SAN FRANCISCO
Based in San Francisco, David Rio crafts and delivers Thai products to customers in over 40 countries. David donates a percentage of his sales to an animal welfare organization.
Offering sauces, drink mixes and concentrates without high fructose corn syrup.
COEXIST FOUNDATION AMERICA, INC.
You've seen their bumper stickers. The Coexist Campaign works to reduce conflict in divided communities around the world by creating opportunities for people to work and learn together. Their hand-picked, fair-trade, organic coffee comes from a cooperative in Uganda composed of Muslim, Jewish and Christian farmers.
THE CHAI COMPANY
This company focuses on chai, using certified organic ingredients, fair-trade tea and fresh whole spices. They have a variety of tasty products.
OMG! After tasting their product, I waved my finger at them and said "Bad, bad, bad." Their products were SO good. Baklava, crumb cakes, lady fingers and brownies were all I could taste before common sense kicked in and said NO MORE.
BARTLETT DAIRY/HUDSON VALLEY FRESH
This was a family-owned and operated company and have been serving the tri-state area for over 50 years offering dairy products, bread, juice and more. They are the distributor of Hudson Valley Fresh Milk. Although they were not passing out free samples, I did get a bumper sticker from them promoting local milk.
ADD A SCOOP SUPPLEMENT
These were interesting products. Called Smoothie Essentials Supplement, you could use them in practically anything for flavor but they were also marketed for other health related issues such as sleeping better, keeping alert, losing weight, getting a boost, etcetera.
DESIGN & LAYOUT SERVICES
Design fit Layout Services works with clients interested in opening a cafe or starting a coffee shop. Services include floor plan design, health department coordination, construction documents, cabinetry and equipment sales.
DOLE PACKAGED FOODS
More great snack items.
There were several companies offering on-the-go "just add water" cups of oatmeal with dried fruits and other yummy ingredients. Many of them were marketing to the small cafe who may wish to offer some sort of portable breakfast to their customers. Some of these companies didn't realize that they could market their product to campers, hikers, bread makers or college students. If you're a hammer, it is hard not to see everything as a nail. This company may not have been one of those but, their product was delicious.
Big Train provides premium quality gourmet drink mixes, offering an array of products including chai tea, blended ice coffees, coffee free blended frappes, protein drinks, fruit smoothies and more.
1ST LINE EQUIPMENT
They were offering the latest and greatest espresso machines on the market today. They were passing out samples of Fattobene espresso blend coffee.
DOMINION LIQUID TECHNOLOGIES
Dominion are the makers of Previsto Gourmet Coffee, sauces, smoothies and syrups.
GUITTARD CHOCOLATE CO.
Fabulous rich and creamy caramel syrup you can mix with your drink of any kind. I'm having a sample in my coffee right now.
This company wasn't giving anything away for free, but, they did let us walk around the convention floor with their product in our shoes. Since many food and service industry professionals spend most of their time on their feet, this was an interesting product to alleviate many symptoms from a day of walking. They product is a sole which fits in your shoe and has a liquid which moves around as you walk. It creates a lifted and massaging feel to your feet with each step. I have to admit when I took them off, I could feel the difference. However, for me, I am barefoot 95% of the time and believe strongly that shoes are not good for our bone density, muscle tone, balance and general health. Since I run on the balls of my feet, these pads wouldn't help me as they didn't pad the toe area. A nice product with a lot of intriguing claims.
This company offers 15 unique and delicious frappe flavors.
APIS HONEY/UA GLOBAL INC.
This was my favorite vendor there. Not only did they have a variety of unusual flavors of honey such as Buckwheat, Acacia, Sunflower, May, Multiflower and Linden open and available to sample, they also gave us six jars of their honey to take home. They took the time to talk to us about Apiary science and the production of honey. They said that most of the supermarket honey we purchase can have up to 40% corn syrup in it and there is no law requiring them to put that information on the label. People who use honey as a sugar substitute should be aware of that trick and consider buying from a reputable honey maker in their area. Apis is 100% pure and with one taste, you can tell the difference.
3M PURIFICATION INC.
This company was offering a line of water filtration and treatment products for both coffee and food service industries. My friend Byron was discussing the option of getting one of their products for his home which they said they could do.
GIORGIO COOKIE COMPANY
Master crafters of cookies and biscotti.
KIND HEALTHY SNACKS
All natural snacks and grain bars. Delicious.
This is a small family business run by a mom who creates hand bags and wallets made out of coffee bean bags. She does everything herself and I think she said that 40% of her profit goes to three charities in LA, Jamaica and Haiti. I don't remember because so many of these companies have charity programs designed to give back.
This company offered credit card processing, gift card and loyalty programs whose services a cafe or restaurant can use to process payment and other programs.
There were so many other tea, coffee, packaging, labeling, coaster creators, plumbing distributors, lid-cup-and napkin makers there. I think one of the more intriguing tea shops was one where they had see through clear glass teapots. They put in a closed bud of a flower used for tea and poured in the hot water. In about three minutes the flower opened and steeped the most delicious tea. The flower in the clear pot alone is worth having on your table as you sit in your favorite cafe watching your tea open and brew.
This was a magnificent convention to attend. It spoiled me as the cafes in my area employ people who work there for the job. The people running these booths had so much pride in the growing, picking, roasting, packing and brewing of their product. Some of them even had pictures of the plantations and workers thereof.
So the next time you have a cup of coffee, is it just that or something which your cafe owner chose because of flavor, point of origin, the soil it was grown in and the people the coffee employs? Will he know the workers of the field or even know where it came from? I do, now.