Barista Magazine

OCT-NOV 2017

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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P A R T 2 : S K I L L , T H R I L L S , A N D K N O W L E D G E A DOUBT, one of the things that makes special- ty-coffee truly special is our general stick-togetheritiveness. Is there another discipline where you've heard of professionals from different companies getting together for a friendly throwdown, renting out a campground for a long weekend of teaching each other classes, or, heck, offi ciating one another's weddings? Those things happen on the regular with coffee people, so much so that we actually refer to ourselves as a "community" more often than we do as an "industry." "Once you get in to coffee, there's a danger that you end up spending all of your time with coffee people, and you lose your connection with 'normal people,'" laughs Hannah Davies, guilds coordinator for the Specialty Coffee Association, based in Manchester, England. "The amount of events that are on the calendar now—you could be at a coffee event every week," she says. "It's all about people getting together and sharing their ideas and providing a platform for competition and elevating our community." As the coordinator for guild events, Hannah has gotten to wit- ness fi rsthand the importance and infl uence of community-driven professional development, both on a large scale through the Barista and Roaster Guilds of Europe events, as well within the much smaller and tight-knit group of coffee people in individual cities and towns. The interesting thing, she's noticed, is that even within a relatively limited geographical area like Manchester, the existing coffee companies support and respect one another, rather than fi ghting or bickering as they vye for a fi nite number of specialty-coffee customers. "You do see players from outside coming in because they don't have that level of consideration or that sense of community," she says, but otherwise the feeling is that "the more we can share, the better. Not just amongst our- selves, but also externally," to build a bigger customer base that will benefi t the industry as a whole. The Guild events in Europe, just as in the States, are huge- ly dependent on volunteers, of which there is hardly ever a shortage: That alone speaks to the desire that specialty-coffee n this three-part series, we ask whether the moment we're in as the specialty-coffee industry can be understood through our willingness to collaborate, and whether it takes precedence over or even eliminates the kind of rivalries and competition that have existed before in coffee, and which certainly exist in other professional circles. This is part two of three: Visit to read the fi rst installment, in the June + July 2017 issue. For the majority of its history as an industry, coffee has been a very behind-closed-doors sort of enterprise: Through- out the commercial development of the coffee business in the 19th and into the fi rst half of the 20th centuries, pretty much every skill or job in coffee was earned through blood or learned the hard way, through long and often thankless apprenticeship. Errand boys jumped through hoops for years (for next to no pay) in hopes of eventually being promot- ed to salesmen; the craft of roasting was passed on through hours of daily hard physical labor to an apprentice who spent months or even years doing grunt work; cupping and sensory analysis was performed by select and extremely discreet few; blend recipes and supply chain information were fully proprietary; and just forget about price transpar- ency. In short, coffee was very intentionally kept as a business of insiders, who protected their jobs and their business' security by holding their cards close to their vests. Specialty coffee then, we might argue, is defi ned by the sense of community, sharing, openness, and collaboration that has been imbued in it from the beginning, starting perhaps with the very fi rst meeting of the Specialty Coffee Association of America in the 1980s. Is this spirit of sharing what makes our approach to coffee "special," in comparison to the more commercial or standard side of the industry? One of the ways that specialty coffee has changed dramatically in the past 10 to 15 years is also one of its core and defi ning characteristics: We love to teach. Not simply in a "stand at the head of the class" kind of a way, though there's defi nitely plenty of that going on these days as well, but in everything we do—from posting blogs and starting conver- sations; to volunteering at professional-development community events; to writing books that clarify the heretofore mysterious roasting, brewing, and opening-a-coffee-shop processes; to sharing the intimate details of our supply chain dealings, and beyond—we are a professional community of sharers. Maybe even oversharers, actually. But defi nitely sharers. While the previous installment of this three-part series examined shared spaces—specifi cally coroasting facilities and café spaces—in this second look we turn our gaze somewhat inward, to the emotional and intellectual sharing that goes along with education, mentorship, and community-focused professional development. Does our penchant for learning at the communal table help or hurt us, or even a little of both? PART 2: SKILL, THRILLS, AND KNOWLEDGE I 76 barista magazine

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