A Barista's View: Serving Coffee at 2024 TED in Vancouver

Posted by Ben Cram on

I recently went to represent Fernwood Coffee Company at TED (serving coffee to attendees, not speaking). The theme this year for the event was was the Brave and the Brilliant. My experience was a blend of serving up premium coffee and soaking in the intellectually stimulating atmosphere of the event. Situated at a bar co-sponsored by Aeropress, myself and four of our best baristas served thousands of coffees to guests whose main interest at the event was the exchange of groundbreaking ideas (and complimentary coffee.)


Fernwood Coffee TED Talks 2024

While we, the coffee bar staff, couldn't venture into the theatre where the talks unfolded, we were privy to a unique perspective. From our vantage point, we could see and hear the talks as they were broadcast to comfortable viewing areas throughout the venue. Our bar would get very quiet when the speakers started, affording us a chance to catch some of the broadcasted talks. It was a front-row seat to talks that ranged from A.I. to robot farming to how to be brave and how to live a meaningful life. It was these latter topics that explored themes of empathy, creativity, and social change that resonated most for me. Brian S Lowry not only frequented our bar throughout the week, but his talk was exceptional to witness. It's not posted online yet, but we are eagerly awaiting to watch again.  We've listed our favourite TED talks, past + present below! 

We chose to partner with Aeropress for a few reasons. The first is that when trying to showcase multiple interesting coffees, Aeropress is a great brewer to use. We were able to hand craft multiple cups of unique coffees on the fly at a pace that could keep up with the crowds. The second reason is that it’s an interesting brewer that sparks conversation. We were able to debut the Aeropress colours and the interest from the attendees was a testament to the uniqueness of this brew method. We answered a multitude of questions on how the brewer works and what it’s strengths are. The final reason was that, while we’ve always loved the Aeropress, our allegiance grew when ownership was taken over by a fellow Victoria BC business. 


What made the experience truly memorable was the audience. TED attendees, drawn to the event looking for new ideas and knowledge, proved to be a uniquely engaged coffee audience. Our bar became a mini version of the penny universities of 17th century London, where knowledge, debate and information could be found for the price of a cup of coffee. 

With all the talk of AI and how technology may shape the future dominated the topics of the event, our bar was a nice reminder to the attendees that humanity, curiosity, and collective thirst for knowledge still propel us forward and that a simple cup of coffee can still playa role in fostering connections and fuelling innovation.


Favourite TED talks from the 2024 event:

Scott Galloway is an economics and marketing professor at NYU and host of the Prof G podcast and Pivot podcast with Journalist Kara Swisher. A member of our team has been tuning into his shows for years and absolutely fan-girled when she got to meet him after his talk. His ability to speak directly and poignantly about issues that intersect humanity and tech are nothing but captivating. His talk this year had all of us brimming with tears at the conclusion. You get a peek at his humour in this talk, but all guard rails are off in his podcasts. 
Pete Stavros had us floored. One of the most impactful parts of his talk though, was unfortunately edited out. At the 10:03 minute mark, you can see that he gets emotional about the life-changing impact the work has had on people. The video gives him 12 seconds to recover when in reality it took him closer to 3 minutes. It was raw, emotional, wildly vulnerable and both unapologetic and absolutely captivating. The empathy in the room was palpable. He received a standing ovation with the entire theatre and us in the halls completely in tears with him. It was more powerful than any words could convey, and we wish it was kept in the edits. In any case, his talk and the work of their project are absolutely worth a watch, as the entire point of TED is to be inspired, to feel, and to change.  
Helen Toner is an AI policy researcher and former board member of OpenAI, aka Chat GPT, aka, everyone's new assistant. If you've ever found yourself wondering what AI can do, what even is, AI, and where it is going, this one is for you. 
There are so many more talks that we want to share but they haven't been uploaded yet! Stay tuned through our newsletter for an update on this throughout the year.

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