Grown in one country, roasted in a second, ground in a third before finally being brewed and served in a fourth. The journey from picking to perfect pour can be quite a long one for the humble coffee bean. The idea for the Cafe Show, Asia’s biggest annual coffee exhibition organised by Exporum and held in Seoul, had an equally lengthy gestation from its initial planting through to maturity, with its motivation also harvested from around the world.

“I attended an event in Milan called the Coffee Pavilion. I took inspiration to go back to my country and start the Cafe Show in 2003,” says Danny Hyundae Shin, CEO of Exporum. “I knew that a couple of years later, coffee would be widely consumed in Asia and that our coffee market would increase very quickly.”

As Exporum’s maiden venture in Seoul it was assisted by resources being at hand from the local government side as well as through university programmes, both ensuring that the right people were available to help drive it forward.

“Seoul Metropolitan government and central government support for business events, including the exhibition industry, was really helpful. It also helped that our Mayor has a lot of interest in the meeting and event industry. Some universities had a curriculum for the MICE industry, and they provided a very qualified human resource. This was very helpful,” says Danny Hyundae Shin.

“At the beginning, it was also a really tough business as coffee wasn’t a suitable item for the industry in Korea, and there were no speciality cafés at that time. Over five or six years, I invested a lot in the exhibition, and after that, we got good feedback from the F&B industry. Our show is the first coffee event in the Asian region, so we are fortunate at the moment that so many coffee producing countries or global coffee companies have had no other option to attend any Asia coffee exhibition.”

From humble origins to today’s global focus as Asia’s showcase coffee industry exhibition, the Cafe Show is now the top attraction in this burgeoning coffee-consuming region. The event has in turn, however, also had to address key global issues within the industry and make them an integral part of it, creating initiatives that offer the right forum for the main players to address them.

“We are the platform that would like to bring more attention to the issue of sustainability. Of course, the issues that are in producing countries, as the awareness is now growing and we want to help them realise that more,” says April Cho, Marketing Executive at Exporum.

The International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) is the organisation that supports women providing the labour in coffee-producing countries.

“We recently kicked off the chapter in Korea, and that’s one of the CSRs that we want to pursue. We are also interested in the use of child labour in producing countries. We have donated a percentage of the show to an organisation called Coffee Kids that helps those labour issues in producing countries,” says April Cho.

“When it comes to sustainability, we want to emphasise the importance of the eco-campaign in our event. We promote people to use their mock cup or tumbler instead of a plastic or paper cup, and also that there is a waste that is made out of coffee extraction. We want to reuse those ingredients to make another product, and we give them back to organisations that can recycle this. It gives back to the coffee-producing countries also, so these are all campaigns that we do.

“We also made a World Coffee Leader’s Forum as part of the event, like a big international forum. For our first forum, we saw so many Southeast Asian coffee people. They do not have any other chance to hear about the global coffee trends or global coffee knowledge from coffee analysts or scholars,” says Danny Hyundae Shin.

Such positive feedback has also helped propel better prospects. So much so that in recent years it has launched sister events beyond its Seoul base with further international growth scheduled to come on stream very soon.

Begun and blended in Seoul, as an event the Cafe Show has blossomed to become the perfect brew in today’s global coffee industry.