I'm gonna say it right now: 2005 SCAA Conference and Exhibition in Seattle is going to be one hell of a weekend for baristas!
I suppose a little background is in order.
Back in 2003, a couple of guys from Zoka Coffee in Seattle, Chris Davidson (one half of the guys who 'discovered' the crotchless portafilter last year) and Dismas Smith (2002 NABC/USBC Champion), came to the realization that baristas needed a real community of their own. While organizations like the SCAA were focused on being a resource for growers, suppliers, wholesalers and retailers, nobody seemed to be helping day-in-day-out baristas come together to share ideas, promote craftsmanship and help equip baristas to spread the gospel of coffee-quality throughout North America. Inspiration was seen in the founding and success launch of the Roasters' Guild and the idea struck - a guild for the barista seemed a natural choice.
With support from the SCAA, the Barista Guild of America was born. A task force was assembled, and this 'rag-tag group' has been busting their butts for over a year now, getting the BGA ready for prime time. This year at the SCAA Conference and Exhibition in Seattle, you will see what a real Barista Guild looks like!
| Andy Cronin |
Andy Cronin training at a 2004 SCAA lab.
The new Barista Guild leadership has been assembled: Andy Cronin - Chair, Ellie Hudson-Matuszak - Vice Chair, and the Executive Council Directors: Sandy Hon, Bronwen Serna, Andy Newbom, Jay Caragay, and me, Nick Cho. In addition, we have a team of BGA Regional Representatives newly elected and ready, representing each of the ten regions throughout the country. If 'coffee passion' were a bomb, then alert the CIA, cuz we've got a bona fide Weapon of Mass Destruction here!
So what will the Barista Guild of America unleash upon the unsuspecting city of Seattle during the 2005 SCAA Conference and Exhibition (April 15-18, 2005)? Well, let me tell you!
The BGA at SCAA Seattle
The Booth : The Barista Guild has a booth on the show floor, and what a booth it will be! How about true rockstar baristas, armed with three espresso machines, pulling shots from a rotating group of world-class espresso blends? Want nationally-ranked baristas? How about a team that collectively owns four regional and three national USBC titles? In fact, you're talking about eleven top-two trophies in national and regional competitions.
We don't want to reveal (*cough* newPIDLaMarcocco *cough*) too much right now about our (*cough* custompaintedSynessoCyncra *cough*) espresso machine sponsors, but you'll see the latest and greatest in espresso machine technology on hand, expertly worked by our BGA superstars. Wanna see what kind of elixir a rockstar barista and a PID/hybrid design espresso machine can produce? Drop by and find out!
We've also brought together some of the best whole-bean espresso blends from around the country for our BGA bad-azzes to grind, dose, level, tamp, and extract into you-know-what. I'm announcing it right now: I WILL put my head under the spouts and drink the stuff straight out of the spouts. Who needs a demitasse? (ed.note: someone better get me photos!).
The Membership and Meetings : The Barista Guild of America is nothing - nothing without its members, that is! Join the BGA at the BGA booth, or at the Official BGA Party and join our army of espresso professionals taking this world by storm. Membership dues are $45 per year, and details on membership are available on the BGA website, at baristaguildofamerica.org.
On April 16th at 5:00pm, the Barista Guild will be holding our General Membership Meeting in the Washington State Convention & Trade Center, Room 310. This meeting is open to BGA members, and will include the induction of the new Executive Council and the Regional Representatives, info about the Official BGA Party, and discussions regarding the future of the Barista Guild of America. Members (and members-to-be). Make sure you attend and make your voices heard!
| Barista Party! |
A party for Baristi at last year's SCAA show in Atlanta.
| Happy Baristi |
Billy Wilson and Bronwen Serna at a Barista Party last year.
The Parties : Did someone say party? There ain't no party like a BGA party 'cause a Barista Guild party don't stop!!!
First, on Saturday, April 16, Zoka Coffee and Tea Company is hosting an International Barista Party and Jam, with baristas from around the world, coming together over food and drink... and espresso. There's been rumors of some sort of impromptu international competition... and of course, what 'baris-debauchery' would be complete without the 'K-word?' No, not 'KRUPS...' karaoke...
Oh my Lord, and that's only the beginning...
If you've got something you need to buy from the Pacific Place Nordstrom, buy it before Sunday, April 17th, because that city-block might not survive the Official 2005 Barista Guild of America Party at GameWorks Seattle. Thanks to the generous sponsorship from Monin Syrups, Ambex Roasters, Espresso Specialists, Caffe D'Amore, and Fresh Cup Magazine, we're gonna do our best to blow the roof off of GameWorks with the baddest, shiggidy-slammin, ba-donk-a-donk-fest that the city has ever seen. From 5:00pm, at GameWorks Seattle, right next to the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, the party will rock! For more information, visit the BGA booth at the conference, or the Monin booth. This is NOT one to be missed!
FYI, even if you can't make it into the conference, if you're a professional barista (and you know who you are, join the par-tie!
So why should I join the BGA?
So, you may ask, is the Barista Guild about meetings and parties? Heck yes! But, let me switch gears right here and get serious. You might be asking yourself, "So I'm a barista... but why would I wanna spend any money to join the Barista Guild of America?" That's a GREAT question! THANKS for asking!
I do want to pause and get something out of the way right now: there ARE some criteria for membership. Coffee preparation must be an integral part of your profession, you must have a desire to excel at the art and craft of coffee preparation, and you must have a passion for coffee. Of course, of the three, the first criteria is the most cut and dry.
This is an organization of coffee professionals. Apologies to the consumer coffee-enthusiasts here on CoffeeGeek, but do know that there's also an option for you. If you are a consumer with ninja like talents on the espresso machine at home and were to ask the question, "Wait, I can't join? Isn't the BGA is the only super-cool organization that I'd even wanna join!?!?" I'd answer by quoting the ancient and great master-barista himself... I'm talking, of course, about Yoda, who said, "No... there is another."
Consumers and the BGA will always work in tune with each other because we're both the front liners. Make your own voice heard within the SCAA's C-Member initiative!
The Third Wave
| Trish Skeie |
Trish first brought about the fantastic theorem on the Third Wave.
| Nick Trains |
The author working an espresso lab, checking machine temperatures.
| Hands on.. |
At a Barista Jam, participants get hands on learning and training from top seasoned pros.
Many may have heard me in a piece on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, which aired when many of us were in Seattle for the USBC this past March. In that piece, I referred to the "Third Wave of Coffee" concept, which I must take the opportunity right now to credit Trish Skeie, from Taylor Maid Farms Organic Coffee and Tea, for coming up with. The idea is that the first wave of coffee across the country and around the world was the initial proliferation of coffee, which one might say peaked in North America during the post World War II era with freeze-dried coffee flooding the marketplace. During this time, coffee was 'consumed' more than it was 'enjoyed,' but at least people were drinking coffee.
The second wave is the introduction of espresso beverages to the world, as well as the elevation of overall coffee quality, abandoning all-robusta coffee in favor of the arabica species. Starbucks, the initial Juan Valdez Colombian coffee campaign, and the sudden ubiquity of espresso machines all over the continent are all part of this second wave.
So what of this 'Third Wave?' In an admittedly esoteric way, I usually refer to the 'Third Wave' as letting the coffee speak for itself. During the first two waves, we appreciated coffee for what it gives us: caffeine, a hot beverage to sip and enjoy a conversation over, a drink to modify with sweetener, dairy (or non-dairy) creamers, syrups, whipped cream, etc. The Third Wave is about enjoying coffee for what it is.
Coffee is a crop, that cannot forever be marketed, sold, and purchased the way it is today. To piggy-back on Mark Prince's article from a couple months ago, if wine was sold the way coffee is usually sold today, you'd go to a store and see a row of five to twelve bottles, with labels that say, "FRENCH WINE," "AMERICAN WINE," "ITALIAN WINE," "AUSTRALIAN WINE," etc. No vineyard or winery name, no vintage year, no nothing. Just country of origin, and that's it.
So what's missing? What's hidden? Well, vineyard that produced it of course, the specific grape, as well as the vintage year, because everybody knows that the same vineyard can produce wine that is significantly different from year-to-year.
The best coffees in the world, indeed much like wine, have inherent characteristics that dictate how they should be marketed and sold. We need to be able to walk into a store and see coffee with 'roasted-on' dating. The labels should not only give us the country of origin and degree of roast, but the actual farm or estate that it comes from. On top of that, when that particular lot of green coffee has been exhausted and a new one comes in to the roaster, the information and descriptions should be updated to reflect the new coffee.
With those new crops come new flavors that will affect the espresso blends that they make up. Blending and roasting to achieve a pre-determined 'flavor profile' year after year, believing that consistency is above all else the ultimate goal when blending and roasting for espresso... that's second-wave thinking right there. With each new lot of coffee, the roaster is given a new palette of coffees to work with, and learning how to work with that palette is Third Wave thinking... not merely trying to make them be what you want them to. Wait... looking back at the beginning of this paragraph... did someone say, 'espresso?'
Espresso is, as many have written, the soul of coffee... the essence of coffee. I like to use the illustration of the movie The Princess Bride. Remember when Westley is on that contraption and his life is being sucked out of him and into this jar as goop? Well, if Westley is a coffee bean, that goop is espresso. A double-shot, anyone?
Seriously though, while in years past, a 'barista' was someone who merely operated an espresso machine, a Third Wave barista is a student of the bean. A Third Wave barista doesn't merely focus on "How can I hurry and make these drinks for these customers as quickly as possible." It's about coaxing everything that's good from of your espresso blend, taking as much energy and effort and time as necessary... and serving THAT to your customers. A Third Wave barista is a coffee ambassador.
A true barista takes real pride in their work. A true barista finds satisfaction in realizing that some part of their technique or their 'system' was hindering their ability to produce perfect espresso, and fixing it. A true barista is a Third Wave barista.
We've been referring to all of this a wave... the Third Wave. It's a "wave" because it's indeed going to sweep across the continent. But a drop of water does not a wave make, and that's why it's going to take a real community to make this happen.
This Third Wave is not something that will happen automatically. As you've seen, there's an opposing force out there that is trying to automate 'espresso' as much as possible. Super-automatic machines are the cement-shoes that will plant this industry firmly in the second wave of coffee. There exists a persistent shroud of misinformation and disinformation that many in the coffee industry rely on to maintain their multi-million dollar companies. These corporations seek only to maximize profits while hiding the inherent truths about coffee, such as what's "fresh," about crop-to-crop variations... all the way to what constitutes a real espresso extraction.
The coffee needs YOU!
Someone must be out there to show people that there are some beautiful coffees out there, which are planted by people on the other side of the globe, picked by hand, processed with care, painstakingly selected by passionate coffee professionals, roasted with a nurturing attention to detail, and prepared by TRUE baristas... that all of that deserves to be highlighted, taught, learned, and yes, enjoyed... but never exploited, at any step of the process. All of that care that's inherent in the journey all to be ruined at the end by untrained hands in a badly-maintained espresso machine? That's a tragedy... and that's what we're working to eliminate.
So to you, oh barista/CoffeeGeek reader, I ask, does any of this resonate with you at all? Have you been at all inspired? Perhaps intrigued? Or, perhaps you totally disagree. The wonderful thing is, no matter how you answer those questions; the Barista Guild of America needs you!
Step One in the Third Wave has already happened: awakening awareness within the core-group. Step Two is about spreading the 'gospel' among coffee professionals. Step Three will be the big challenge, which is establishing the Third Wave in the North American consumer-base. We're in the beginning part of Step Two, and looking ahead to Step Three. At this point in the journey is when we really need YOU!
This year, we're hoping to see not only see a Regional Barista Competition in all of the ten SCAA regions, but also see Regional Barista Jams in each region as well. Enrichment opportunities like competitions and Jams, a more developed web-presence and networking opportunities, as well as member 'perks' are all in the works. But the Barista Guild is nothing without its members, and your presence and voice will be what makes it all happen.
So whether you can make it out to Seattle to sign up and participate in all of the wacky festivities, or if you're gonna have to sign up by mail (Click here for a PDF of the application), we encourage you to commit to joining the Barista Guild of America, and truly help the coffee have a voice. We literally can't do it without you! The coffee needs you!
2005 is the year that will put the Barista Guild of America on the map, and we really want you to be a part of what will prove to be a major force in making the Third Wave a reality. Join me, and together we can rule this galaxy as father and son! WHOOPS. I mean, join us, and help us make 2005 the Year of the Barista Guild of America!
Nicholas Cho is the owner of murky coffee in Washington, DC, a Director of the Barista Guild of America Executive Council, and is a USBC certified judge. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.