Ana's first Specialty Coffee Expo

Posted on November 03 2021, By: Ana Ocansey

Ana's first Specialty Coffee Expo

I cannot stress how excited I am to be fully immersed in the coffee world. The wonderful people I have met along the way and the new learning experiences I am having keeps leaving me speechless!  What was a 5-day trip really felt more like 2 months!  

Last month I travelled to New Orleans for the Coffee Expo and met up with Oneida, my business partner and friend. I had never visited New Orleans, and after this trip, I plan on returning. We stayed at the Hampton Inn right across from the convention center, which was extremely convenient. The rooms were elegant and modern and the staff was so courteous. 

Day 1 

I took an Uber from a chilly, rainy Bronx, NY to Queens (JFK Airport) and had a great conversation with the driver; a former restaurant owner from Argentina. We talked about the poverty and violence in many of our native countries and the promise of success and a better future here in the United States.  By the way, if you are looking for the COVID testing site at JFK, it is outside of the airport, so give yourself PLENTY of time. I found a cold brew coffee of Mexican vanilla flavor, cheese and a protein bar and I was ready for my flight. 

After my early afternoon flight, I landed in New Orleans Airport which is so beautiful. The climate there reminds me of Florida, hot and humid. The Uber driver called me “sweetie”, in true southern charm. The drive to the hotel was a bit long, due to rush hour traffic around 5pm; on my way I noticed the damage to buildings, as a result of the recent hurricane, it was truly sad. 

After checking into the hotel, I made a reservation for 1 at Cochon....AMAZING!! I had fried alligator for the first time and gumbo! I was a bit apprehensive to eat alligator, but to my surprise it was so delicious!  It was full of flavor with a soft texture.  It was so good, I returned later, with the rest of the team.  


Day 2 

Oneida is here! We opted to be tourists and visit Café du Monde, of course. This was the first time I tasted beignets and they were a yummy deliciousness of softness and sweetness! The coffee made with chicory was a tad different for me, never having it before, but it was a nice combination. 

We did a lot of walking so we later fueled up at Two Chicks Café (almost stole our name there so we had to stop by 😉). The food was really good and the natural juices even better. This is a place to go for breakfast.  

It is now the afternoon and the Expo is now open so we headed over there. The air-conditioned building was so welcomed after walking around in the heat and humidity of New Orleans all day. We picked up our badges and bags and we were off to dinner. 

Day 3 

You can’t be in New Orleans and not have breakfast at the Ruby Slipper, per the locals.  It was a sunny morning and we had great waitress explaining the menu to us. She suggested we have the fried tomatoes with bacon jam. The flavors were surprisingly great. The weather, the food, the people, the was just like we were in a movie. 


The Expo is officially open and we were eager to be one of the first inside. 

We saw innovation at Steeped Coffee and received a lot of goodies from 1883, a syrup company with many different flavors. 

I had the honor to meet two of my fellow Café Club members in person! Café Club is a club on the Clubhouse app that is open for anyone who loves coffee, is interested in learning or talking about coffee or just plain wants to be in the know about coffee.  

Mario Duarte, owner of Apolonia Coffee (named after his mom), has been in the coffee business since a baby on the family-owned coffee farm. 

Mayra Sanchez, an import expert from Mexico, felt like a cousin to meTruly knowledgeable about these laws, and trust me that these import/export rules are sometimes hard to figure out! She gave me the Café de Olla signature blend of Apolonia coffee and it is delicious.   

Better than my own?  Let’s see. This is how I make my Café de Olla. I put whole beans, preferably Cafenyolli, to coarsely grind. I use this Mexican coffee for its smooth, mild flavor with chocolate, peanut and citrus notes. I fill a clay pot with cold water and put in a stick of cinnamon and some piloncillo (unrefined sugar). When you can smell the cinnamon and the piloncillo is fully dissolved you take it off the fire and add the coffee and let it brew to your liking. Now this is a flavorful treat that everyone that comes to my house asks for over and over again. Cafenyolli is directly from the same Chiapas region known for great coffee. If you don’t have a clay pot, a regular coffee pot will do. Try this recipe and be the best host when company comes over. 

Esquipulas Coffees was a group of the nicest people ever!  Very personable, sweet, knowledgeable and happy to share their years of experience and personal story. They were making their way around the Guatemala stand pulling a cute little truck with their product and candies in it. 

They are comprised of 8 families, 16 farms that produce specialty coffee, sell locally, as well as export out of Guatemala. Their stories were so inspiring 

I had heard that Eddy Ramirez, from Ramirez Estate (producer of our Cibao coffee) was at the Expo. Hector Carvajal, of Don Carvajal Café told me to tell him hi, so I was looking for him.  We found him, talked about the great coffee he is producing, and had a great time tasting more coffee and laughing. 

We met a beautiful lady, Luisa Fernanda, an heir into the Chapman 1935 coffee business. Her mission is to take women with families out of poverty. She employs women during the busy harvest season and educates them after the harvest season. 

This was all in the morning!!! Whew! I didn’t want to take a break so we went by to meet Peter Giuliano, co-author of the “Coffee Sensory and Cupping Handbook” along with Mario Roberto Fernandez-Alduenda. We had a great conversation and he even conducted the Sensory workshop Oneida and I attended. I learned a lot about the science and art around tasting and sensing.  

We are not done yet! Did you hear about the Geisha from Panama that broke records at $2,568 a pound? Well, they were well represented at the Expo. We even received green coffee to roast. So off to the roaster we go! 

We met awesome people from Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, Papua New Guinea, Korea, Puerto Rico, Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras and Costa Rica! 

We ended the day looking around for items to buy in the shop and we met Sarina Prabasi, author of “The Coffeehouse Resistance”.  She is co-owner of Bunni Café in New York City, I was floored!  The location near me was forced to close down due to COVID.  She still has other locations in New York City, which I have to visit. Once I read her book, I will make an appointment to come through and talk about it. I was so excited when she offered to do a co-sponsored event with Casa Dos Chicas Café! (sigh) 

Today was a great day. 

Day 4 

This morning has so much possibility in the air. I have mixed feelings. I am in a different world while rubbing elbows with some of the most humble, beautiful people. The pace is definitely slower and more deliberate.  

We went to the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) breakfast where the keynote speaker was Sarada Krishnan, the Executive Director of the IWCA. Her inspirational message rang truwith me. I am unique and can pave my own path.  

Today was truly an inspirational day. 

Day 5 

We walked to Spitfire Coffee, which was a recommendation from my brother-in-law Kevin (Thanks Kev!) We ordered floral infused lattes and roamed around the French Quarters in the early morning before heading back to the Expo. 

We found so many quaint places, like the Goorin Bros Hat Shop, where I bought a stunning hat for my husband. From the little boutiques along the cobble streets to the larger-than-life personalities we met along the way, New Orleans is truly a beautiful city. Lattes in hand, we found a cute café with the best ambience, so we went in.  

It's now Sunday; the New Orleans Saints are playing the New York Giants in football (American football which is quite different for us Futbol/Soccer fans) and fans are walking around getting ready for the big day. Oneida and I are just two new coffee ambassadors taking everything in. The lady at the front of the café was very busy and as becoming rather flustered so we decided to wait before we ordered. We walked to the back of the café only to find a true hidden gem. That is where we recorded our first “Live”. I thought I would have a difficult time talk, but I just started flowing. 

We returned to the Expo. The event is now winding down and the exhibitors are packing up. Oneida and I sat there looking, watching and talking about where we want to take Casa Dos Chicas Café. To the Moon, Oneida said. No, to Pluto, I responded. Because everything is possible over a cup of coffee. 

#CoffeeExpo #New Orleans #Coffee #Travels #LatinaOwned #CoffeeLover #mexicana #CafeDeOlla #Cafenyolli #MexicanCoffee #OrgulloMexicano