Educating the Industry

By Peter Giuliano

One thing that makes coffee special is that it takes so many skilled professionals to reveal its natural beauty. The skills of the farmer, miller, cupper, roaster, and barista are essential to specialty coffee, and SCAA has, since its inception, taken responsibility for cultivating, teaching, and setting the standard for coffee education and training.

My very first interaction with SCAA was in the mid-nineties, through a brewing class taught at SCAA headquarters. I arrived at the class wanting to learn how to brew coffee, but what really made an impact on me was the professionalism of the teachers. I couldn’t believe there were people who were so knowledgeable about coffee quality, and who were willing to share that knowledge with others. That knowledge, and the willingness to teach others, inspired me. I aspired to become an SCAA coffee instructor myself. In the end, that aspiration was what drove me to become a true coffee professional. It is no exaggeration to say that a large part of my own standing as a coffee professional is due to the professional development I got through SCAA.

This story is not mine alone—it has repeated itself throughout the coffee industry. In this way, SCAA has fueled the amazing explosion of coffee professionalism over the past decade.

Three years ago, SCAA officially adopted a strategy we call Professional Development, a suite of programs designed to provide education and recognition to skilled coffee professionals around the world. These programs have been underway for years, mainly owing to the herculean efforts of our volunteers and staff. Now, for the first time ever, we have staff members who are dedicated to nothing but developing and executing professional development in the coffee community, and developing and recognizing the skilled professionals of the coffee industry.

A few weeks ago, at a board meeting in Houston, I was able to watch our Professional Development committee and staff at work, strategizing new ways to provide exciting, meaningful coffee education to our members. We now offer a Roaster Certification program, a Barista Certification program, an Instructor Development program, and the Q Cupper Certification program, as well as more than 100 skill-building courses, and lectures that support them. Meanwhile, our members have built upon these educational programs, creating a vibrant community of coffee education and professional development.

It used to be SCAA had a handful of cupping, brewing and espresso courses, all of which were delivered at our headquarters lab and our annual Event. Today, SCAA professional development happens all over the country—at the Roasters Guild Retreat, at barista competitions and specialized educational events. Today, one can earn a Q Cupper’s certificate (which brings with it an amazing amount of taste training and education), begin the Roaster’s certification program, and become an SCAA Certified Barista. Our annual Symposium provides advanced-level learning for those coffee professionals who are pushing the limits of coffee science and business development. The aspiring coffee professional now has the opportunity to learn from the best and brightest in specialty coffee, and build a true coffee career.

It’s a great time to be a coffee professional—there are so many opportunities to develop, grow and learn—and SCAA has dedicated itself to cultivating that vibrant educational environment.

Peter Giuliano is director of coffee and co-owner of Counter Culture Coffee, a specialty coffee roasting company based in Durham, NC. He has worked with fine coffees since 1988. He is the president of the Specialty Coffee Association of America.