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Uptown Coffee Exchange Event Offers Insight For Those Who Don’t Know Beans

For those who have never considered how many steps their coffee takes between planting, roasting and drinking, a Westerville coffee shop is hoping to shed some light on the process and highlight the work of its South American partners.

Uptown’s Java Central is bringing together the people involved in every step of their coffee process, from planting the coffee plant to brewing it in Uptown, in an Uptown Coffee Exchange next week.

Java Central will play host to a variety of events meant to highlight all those involved with what Java Central partner Andy Piper called “a very long supply chain.”

“People would be shocked to realize how many steps go into coffee production,” he said. “It’s not just like picking a tomato. There’s lots of processing and lots of hurdles to go through … before getting your cup of coffee that many consumers don’t understand.”

Piper, who co-owns Java Central with Ralph Denick, said he was inspired to create the event after taking a trip to Costa Rica to source the “green” coffee used by Java Central.

Along with his friend, Marco Castro, another organizer of the Uptown Coffee Exchange, Piper said he took lots of tours and listened to the thoughts of the local residents, a process he said he wished he could duplicate at home.

“One thing we kind of noticed was that this method (of distribution) doesn’t allow the coffee producers to tell their own story,” he said. “It’s being filtered through my mouth or the importer, whoever that is.”

He said he also realized that many people — both in Latin American countries and in the United States — assume Americans are “there for exploitive reasons,” which he admitted there are “historical reasons” for.

To help combat that mentality, he said he wanted to allow those people to tell their own story and to experience the rest of the journey of their coffee.

“We thought to ourselves, what if we brought the producers to the us to tell their story? I haven’t really seen this been done a lot,” he said. “A couple places are starting to do this, but at the time I didn’t realize that until I started looking into it more.”

From there, Piper planned the conference portion of the Uptown Coffee Exchange.

With representatives from coffee shops and roasters all around Ohio “and even further, if we can” invited to the conference, Piper said he’s hoping that by bringing everyone together, they can all learn from each other and create a more beneficial environment for all involved.

He hopes to make the conference an annual one and expand it as more interest comes.

“We’ll see how things go,” he said. “I think we’ve got a great conference planned.”

He’s also hoping some customers stop by for the more amateur-friendly events of the event, including a panel discussion, a “latte art throwdown” competition and a coffee art walk to see coffee-related paintings done by a dozen artists that will hang in shops around Uptown.

Even for those who don’t know much about coffee or the process of creating the cup they buy at Java Central, Piper said he thinks the event will have something to experience.

“The people who grow our coffee are some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met, and I’d love to be able to share that with our customers,” he said.

The four-day event begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 6, with a free meet-and-greet with international speakers at Java Central, 20 S. State St.

The conference begins in earnest at 2 p.m. Thursday, June 7, at the Old Bag of Nails, 24 N. State St. Entry to the conference is $40 per person or $100 for a company.

The event wraps up with music at Java Central at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 9, featuring musicians involved in the coffee industry.

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