The SCAA Recognition Awards Process

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By Timothy J. Castle

Having participated on the SCAA awards committee for the past two years, this last year as chairman of the committee, some observations have come to mind that were not previously obvious to me with regard to the awards process.

First of all, as an organization, we make a big assumptions when we make the decision to give out awards to those who have distinguished themselves in various ways with regard to coffee: we assume that we truly represent the specialty coffee industry as a whole, and that our conduct in that representation has been so outstanding that each of our awardees will feel honored enough to come here and pick up the award. We also make the commitment to do the best we can in the future, so that the awards we give out now will always serve to honor the people we give them to, their companies, and the people they care about.

We honor ourselves as a group and as an association by validating our awardees’ merit and holding them up as examples. We also promote our industry as capable of excellence in achievement and exemplary conduct, by associating our awardees with us. If the awards offer any glow, and if our choices are sound, that radiance will inevitably reflect back on us.

This is all a long-winded way of saying, that while it is expected that the awardees thank us as a group for recognizing each of them, they should also be thanked for taking these awards seriously enough to come by and spend a couple hours at our Awards Ceremony waiting in line, essentially, to pick them up.

Last year at the awards ceremony I was very moved to see that it seemed to mean a great deal to everyone who received an award from our association. This made me want to ensure that our awards process was sound and that it would endure.

Another aspect of the awards process also stands out as I look back on the honor of serving on this committee for the past two years: that is, how important the nominations process is to identifying and honoring some of the folks who most deserve the awards we confer. There are two important parts to this: one is that without an engaged membership, and vibrant advocacy for a wide range of nominees, we won’t even get close to getting it right. That gets to the second, and even more humbling part of our awards process—that, almost by definition, someone will be missed or passed over for recognition. Without taking anything away from those that we do honor, there will always be those that we fail to recognize. I believe it is necessary to recognize this, and keep it in mind as we cheer on our awardees; our awards would not mean anything if we didn’t have others against whom their accomplishments were compared and found to be achingly close in terms of importance and distinction. It is in light of this that our committee agreed to keep on record our list of nominees for at least one more year and we will, as an association, encourage nominators to re-nominate those that should be considered again for a particular award.

While the awards committee is perhaps the most focused of all the committees we have, the work required is among the most difficult. As we all strive to make our industry a better place for everyone who contributes to it, selecting those who distinguish themselves the most will become increasingly arduous.

As I write this, I know that there are more folks to recognize, more categories of awards to add to our list, and more work to be done canvassing our members for nominations so that we may better honor those who have received our awards in the past—and those who will in the future.

I encourage everyone reading this to consider nominating your fellow coffee industry colleagues for next year’s awards, or perhaps even volunteering to serve on the Awards Committee as well.

For 30+ years, Tim Castle has sold green coffee and has been writing about coffee and tea. Castle co-authored The Great Coffee Book (Ten Speed Press, 1999) and wrote The Perfect Cup, (Persues Books, 1991). In 2003 Castle Received the SCAA’s Distinguished Author Award and was the Association’s President in 1991.