Coffee Education & Collaboration

By Mike Ebert

One of my first educational experiences involving the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) occurred in the mid-nineties. One of the earliest “pathways” (even though that term would come more than a decade later) was the Golden Cup Technician class.

This was the first class I took that was not offered by a company trying to sell me something. Not that there was anything wrong with that at some level—in fact, most of my early training and success in the coffee world came this way. But this was another level of education; a class put together by multiple subject matter experts, vetted and updated every few years.

Years later, I played a small part in helping launch the SCAA pathway programs. This was light years ahead of that first Golden Cup class. Not only had the curriculum been expanded and vetted at an even higher level of scrutiny; the process to become a Specialized Lead Instructor was implemented, bringing the quality of how classes were delivered to much higher levels.

Personally, I utilize the SCAA pathway training system for private training within companies I have worked at, and now as a consultant in the specialty coffee arena. There is one reason; it keeps me honest, ahead of the curve and most importantly, keeps me from believing my own ideology as my primary source of knowledge. I still find myself quoting old industry urban myths once awhile; some of them were beaten into my head from an early age. The pathway system has helped me grow into the coffee professional I am today, but most importantly, helps me to keep growing.

I am very excited about the merging of SCAA and Speciality Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE) heritage educational programs. It is a continuation of the journey we all started so many years ago; trying to discover and learn all we could about specialty coffee. We are still trying to answer those lingering questions we all have, but also making sure it is based on science and most importantly, is inclusive to all cultures, tastes and practices.

The SCAA heritage educational programs were created by a huge number of people I respect; people I know are actively engaged in their craft every day and our striving for excellence. We are now merging that program with another group people I have respected for years from the “other side of the pond.” They bring with them the same experience and expertise we have had on our side; this just makes our educational program something we can now truly call world-class.

I saw the future first-hand a few weeks back in Paris, where the first meeing of the new education advisory council took place. Although the work to merge the educational programs started some time ago, this was our first opportunity to work as one organization and start to put the “meat on the bones” of a unified educational program. There were plenty of moments that I was in complete awe that I was asked to be at that table; for the talent and experience in that room was astounding.

It is true, this is an immense undertaking—the first of its kind, if you will. We still have a lot of work to do, and we will need a lot of support and expertise. The new Education Advisory Council has been formed, and the current roster of people on this committee is listed here:

  • Andrew Hetzel, Chair
  • Ludovic Maillard, Vice-Chair
  • Todd Arnette
  • Davide Cobelli
  • Roukiat Delrue
  • Mike Ebert
  • Dorothea Hescock
  • Panagiotis Konstantinopoulos
  • Paul Meikle-Janney
  • Tim Sturk
  • John Thompson
  • Susan Hollins (SCA Staff)

Seek us out, ask us questions, get excited with us!

You can learn more about the status of SCA education and get program updates here.

Mike Ebert is a co-founder at Firedancer Coffee Consultants and past president of the SCAA.