I'm not a card-carrying member, but I'm considering it. But first I would like to simply ask in the most respectful manner: why? I would gladly join a guild which is the unified, powerful voice of barista labor; but there is no organization in America that represents the collective bargaining power which would vie for fair wages and treatment of baristas in the industry.

Other than providing a much-needed sense of community, what is the role of the Barista Guild in the SCAA? What opportunities for involvement - besides regional jams - are available to members of the Guild?

I am also very interested in access to the research library. How extensive is the selection of publications available?

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I agree with you. I do not, however, agree that it requires that you pay a $46 annual fee to an organization in order to accomplish this.

I'm not trying to sound anti establishment, or anything, but I haven't seen a case that requires the establishment to do the things that the establishment is trying to do. I am a member. So what? What does that mean to non-members? If it means absolutely nothing, then what is the purpose of the guild? I've been doing those things on my own in my own home town for a few years. Not in the name of the guild, but in the name of spreading the gospel of great coffee. Doing it has taken a lot of time, effort, and lots of frustration. Where is the benefit to my local coffee community afforded by the fact that I am a member of the BGA? What reason do I give them to pay their dues to become members? What tangible benefit do we have to offer?

I recognize that things are changing, and I am happy to see it. This does not mean that we are there. Like I said, I am a card-carrying member.. but that doesn't mean that I see the value in being such. You can read about why I am a member in a past issue of Fresh Cup when they had the Trade Organizations article. It has nothing to do with what I think it ought to be.

Maybe I just don't see it. If you could, can someone please pretend that I am NOT a card-carrying member, and that I am considering joining, but I need to know why I should. That is, what's in it for me? What do I get for paying ~$50 to join?


Hope Eure said:
If members do not think that the guild is speaking loudly enough I believe that they shuold do somthing to change it. That's what this is all about right? Coming together to do what we love, support eachother and help the coffee industry keep evoling? Just a thought

Jason Haeger said:
Peter, I don't think that you are wrong.

I know several people who haven't joined primarily because they just don't see the benefit.

The guild, to be honest, I don't think is doing all it could to be the voice of the barista.

A friend named Chris constantly calls for standardization of drink recipes, parameter tolerances, and the like that just don't exist in the industry here. And rightfully so.

This is not to declare that I suddenly believe that there is a standard, but I do think we need guidelines. As it stands, joining the Guild means you are committed, and that's about the extent of things.

Being a part of the Guild should entail so much more. With only, what is it now, 500? members, I'm not sure we have the muscle required to take the lead on these issues, and Lord knows the SCAA is having a hard enough time on its own trying to spread the gospel to the unwashed masses.

So, really, to join the discussion, I must ask.

What exactly is it that we, as a guild, DO? I still haven't figured it out. (and it just dawned on me that I'm way late on renewal dues. probably almost a year.)

I joined because I wanted to be a part of something bigger. Something more significant that is a significant piece of the career I'm trying to carve out. I haven't found that to be true. Not unless you go to conventions. Not unless you spend the hundreds of dollars needed to travel all over the place.

Honestly, how many working baristas CAN afford to do all that? So, for the average barista, what's the real benefit?

I'm not saying that there aren't good things going on higher up in the food chain, but we down here in the lower end certainly don't hear about it.

Communication is key. (I feel like I say this more often than "hello", for a variety of scenarios)
www.baristaguildofamerica.net has those answers Jason
Jason, on behalf of the BGA EC, I am happy to answer your question. What DO you get for your $45?
http://www.baristaguildofamerica.net/about/Barista%20Guild%20Member...
let me start off by saying... I'm not sure what you want the BGA to do for you... no one can force you to learn or to be a part of a community... even if you do pay your $45. To put it simply... I have a gym membership but I haven't been in two months, and I am still trying to lose the same 20 lbs that I was in January. Is that the gym's fault?.....

Just like joining the gym gives me access to facilities, equipment, and knowledge, being a part of the BGA gives me access to some of the best, most knowledgeable and helpful baristas in specialty coffee. These are people who VOLUNTEER their time, energy and money to work for the good of all baristas. You can say anything you want about the guild, what it does and what it doesn't do, but where the rubber meets the road is that the BGA needs more manpower and more resources to accomplish all of the things that everyone complains we don't do, or that we should be doing.

You are absolutely right, that the BGA doesn't do anything that you can not do in your community, but that isn't what is about. The BGA was made to unite barista communities across the country, and provide an avenue for people to share what they have learned on neutral ground and in an environment of mutual benefit. The idea for a centralized community, sanctioned by the SCAA, is to do exactly that, and to give those smaller communities access to that information, knowledge and skills so that everyone is constantly having to reinvent the wheel.

It is great that you have taken on the mission of "spreading the gospel of great coffee" in your community. I am sure everyone who is an active member of the BGA would commend your efforts and do whatever they could to help you, if asked. I'm not sure what you would want a BGA membership to mean to a non-member but I don't think that is the right question to ask... I think more importantly it is about what being a BGA member means to you. It is also very possible that not everyone should be a BGA member, and that is OK! It however does not do anything for any Barista to undermine the work the BGA EC, and its members are trying to do to advance "the gospel of great coffee", by constantly criticizing their efforts publicly and complaining that there is no incentive to join. It would be more constructive to contact the EC directly through proper channels and discuss your points, and find a resolution. This causes the VOLUNTEERS, to spend their time defending the BGA and why it is valueable rather than doing the work, in their spare time, you are criticizing them for not getting done, such as writing new curriculum, standards, and implementing useable materials to help plan Barista Jams, etc. If you are that interested in the path of the BGA..... GET INVOLVED!!... we need baristas who are interested in the future of Specialty Coffee, and the Barista Craft as a viable career, you can make a difference for yourself and baristas across the country.

"Where is the benefit to my local community afforded by the fact that I am a member of the BGA?"

Contact your BGA Chapter Representative, they are a group of committed and interested VOLUNTEERS who want to work with you to help ease the frustration, and give you a better reward for your time and effort spent to "spread the gospel of great coffee". Again you get out what you put in.... In the two years I have been the South Central Regional Chapter Representative, I have been contacted 2 times by members of my region to ask for help, and both occasions I have been very willing and able to help. Once to find a job in a new city, and another to help put together an event and bring in some prominent national coffee figures. This in the face of my many attempts to volunteer my time, to travel and work with leaders of local barista communities like yourselves to help them build their communities being met with no response. I understand that not everyone wants or needs my help and that is perfectly ok... I am not offended, but it is frustrating to hear people say there is "no benefit" when the BGA EC and Chapter Reps for the most part go out of their way to everything they can for the membership.

In summary.... If you are considering joining the BGA, and think paying your $45 and doing nothing is somehow going to make you a better barista, or get you something DO NOT JOIN!

however, if you are willing to join and understand that you are joining a group of committed baristas who want to work with you to further our craft, we will welcome you with open arms and put you to work.


p.s..... I really do hope that someone gets something out of this post because I just spent the last 30 minutes writing this instead of working on 2 new exciting classes for BGA Certification. Keep your eyes peeled for "Intermediate Brewing: Manual Methods" a class that teaches Coffee Extraction science and how to apply that to French Press, Pour-over, and Siphon brewing techniques coming to SCAA in 2010 and a Skill building workshop near you soon after. Also watch for "Advanced Barista Techniques: Competition Development" (working title) at SCAA 2011.
Well said Dan. I couldn't say it better myself. I agree wholeheartedly. An organization, group, or "guild" is only as good as the people in it are willing to participate and make it better. Considering everyone involved is volunteering their time, we're gonna get out of it what we put into it. That's why I decided to get involved, to make it better, and I knew that would require action. There's lots of work to do, and we would love to have the help of quality baristas like all of you. There's been lots done in the past two years to reenergize the original efforts of people like Trish Rothgeb and others, and hopefully by taking a look at the current benefits, you will immediately see the advantages. The Barista Certification is a huge step in making the barista profession as respectable as it should be by advocating a high skill level, matched with a desire for community. This alones makes being a part of the BGA advantageous. But as Dan said, if you're only in it for what you can get out of it, it might not be for you.
Dan Streetman said:
I have a gym membership but I haven't been in two months, and I am still trying to lose the same 20 lbs that I was in January. Is that the gym's fault?.....

Just like joining the gym gives me access to facilities, equipment, and knowledge, being a part of the BGA gives me access to some of the best, most knowledgeable and helpful baristas in specialty coffee.
...where the rubber meets the road is that the BGA needs more manpower and more resources to accomplish all of the things that everyone complains we don't do, or that we should be doing.

Well, the gym has real facilities near your house, and a lot of really shiny kit, and staff that maintains that kit, and cleans it, and... the analogy starts to fall apart. Comparing the BGA and the gym really isn't analogous, nor helpful in illustrating what the BGA is or isn't.

I had the same issue with the local union here. they kept telling me that they wanted me to join because the needed me. If I've all the skills and nouse that they really need, why are they asking me to pay *them*?
Just like anything else in life, folks want to see what it is that they're getting for their money, their participation, their input and their time. I'm hearing what a great thing that it is for the BGA, and for the coffee community, and a whole lotta vague hoo-rah about how the coffee community benefits, but not much concrete, although, the classes are a real exception. Any real training that could be had is beneficial. I dare say that Jason Haeger could teach quite a few, and that there may not be too much that one could teach that guy about coffee unless one were pretty damned educated on the subject. He's taught me quite a bit.
I've been harping about certification and standardization for about four years now, and yeah, I know that there are a lot of you that are tired of it. But the truth of the matter is, that if it were started four years ago, right this very minute, someone would be looking in a yellow pages, on Google, or on some smart-phone app, for a coffee shop that bore the BGA seal of approval, or advertised BGA certified baristi. Because there are quite a few folks that need some way to separate the wheat from the chaff. Now, the kid down the street that operates the Super-Auto at the coffee drive-thru (the one that puts out a twelve second, no crema, white foam, boiling hot dishwater thin, doppio of about three and a half ounces) has a BGA certificate over his station.
The question that we're asking here, is, why is it that you think that we want to be giving up our hard-earned cash every year simply to be equated with that kid?
Make the certification mean something. Make it valuable to the coffee-buying and coffee drinking public, and we'll value it.

It's about respect, and trust. Both things that must be earned. Both things that, given blindly, aren't worth spit.
You want our respect, and you want our membership, show us that it's worth it.

Standards, my favorite harp. Without them, there is no certification that will be able to be quantified in any meaningful way.
Again, if the certificate means nothing more than you're eager, and you used to have $45, well, that's all it means. Show us one that means that knowledgeable people have measured your skill and talent, and found it at very least acceptable, and let them get used to the idea that every time they see that logo in a shop that they get superior coffee, and you'll be beating baristi off with a stick.
I am a card carrying member of the BGA. I think there is one main point that most of the people on this forum who degrade what the BGA is doing/isn't doing are missing. The BGA is a member driven guild. This isn't a coffee shop that has a machine already in place with a training book and a loyal customer base that you are walking into. This is a shop that is trying to open for business. YOU have to write the manual, YOU have to find the machine, YOU have to create the loyal customer base. For some people, that is a fun and worthy challenge and cause, for others it is a daunting task that is made less scary by sitting on the bleachers and yelling at the quarterback. I'd like to specifically address the last posting.

"I had the same issue with the local union here. they kept telling me that they wanted me to join because the needed me. If I've all the skills and nouse that they really need, why are they asking me to pay *them*?"

First off, the Barista Guild of America is just that, a Guild, not a union. A guild is an association of craftsmen in a particular trade dedicated to the protection and advancement of their craft. A union is an organization of employees formed to bargain with the employer for improved working conditions, wages, etc. So the analogy starts to fall apart from there. Secondly, that statement comes off as a little arrogant. Are you suggesting that your barista skills are so high tiered that the BGA should pay you? The BGA is an all volunteer run organization, and if a two time USBC Champion isn't making money on it and you think you should be, I'd like to taste your espresso, sir.

"Just like anything else in life, folks want to see what it is that they're getting for their money, their participation, their input and their time."

And the BGA is no different, including the "input and time" aspect. A guild is only what the MEMBERSHIP of the guild makes it.

"I've been harping about certification and standardization for about four years now, and yeah, I know that there are a lot of you that are tired of it. But the truth of the matter is, that if it were started four years ago, right this very minute, someone would be looking in a yellow pages, on Google, or on some smart-phone app, for a coffee shop that bore the BGA seal of approval, or advertised BGA certified baristi. Because there are quite a few folks that need some way to separate the wheat from the chaff."

Wow. So you've been "harping for years" about standards and certifications? And what have you done about it? I see you've been trained by well known consultant and barista trainer. Have you encouraged others to do the same? Have you educated your customers to the difference between a well trained barista, and that kid down the street on the Super-Auto? Have you written curriculum for training classes to certify people to a high standard to protect and further your craft?

My wild guess would be that you haven't. Guess what. Four years ago this was started, but you can't snap your fingers and start certifying people left and right. Classes have to be written, standards agreed upon, baristas taught, trained, and certified. Now, you can get a BGA Trained certificate to hang in front of your bar, and guess what? That kid down the street probably won't be waiving the same certificate as you.

"Make the certification mean something. Make it valuable to the coffee-buying and coffee drinking public, and we'll value it . . .It's about respect, and trust. Both things that must be earned. Both things that, given blindly, aren't worth spit. You want our respect, and you want our membership, show us that it's worth it."

Now I'm confused. Are you the coffee drinking and buying public, or are you the craftsman? But guess what, the classes are out there, and all of the BGA members who do volunteer their input and time are making it happen. Things like this don't sprout out of thin air. People with great knowledge and passion like five time WRBChamp, two time USBC Champ, a second place in the WORLD Heather Perry, 3rd place USBC and GLRBChampion Scott Lucey, Jason Dominty a Member of the SCAA Training Committee, Espresso Subcommittee, MWRBChampion Robin Seitz, and USBC Champ Phuong Tran just to name a few, are making the BGA into something that is deserving of both your respect and trust. Seriously. This isn't an ego project. These folks are putting in their time for free, which is good because we probably couldn't pay them what they are worth anyway with $45 yearly dues.

"Standards, my favorite harp. Without them, there is no certification that will be able to be quantified in any meaningful way. Again, if the certificate means nothing more than you're eager, and you used to have $45, well, that's all it means. Show us one that means that knowledgeable people have measured your skill and talent, and found it at very least acceptable, and let them get used to the idea that every time they see that logo in a shop that they get superior coffee, and you'll be beating baristi off with a stick."

Do you even know what the BGA is about or who is on the executive council? See the above list or better yet, go to the website for even more details. If these people aren't good enough in your mind to provide the industry with standards and certifications, then maybe you could teach us all a thing or two about what it means to be a barista. And I will say, yet again, the certification classes are available. Contact your local BGA Regional Rep to find out how to get certified.

I host a monthly latte art throwdown and barista jam in my city. It's been wildly successful. I've accomplished it all with the help of my BGA Regional Rep, including finding speakers, getting the word out, etc.

I am exhausted with all of this talk about "what is the BGA doing", when in fact since it is a guild (see definition above) it is MEMBER DRIVEN! If the BGA isn't doing something that you want to see happen, then get off your lazy butt and do it. Maybe then you'll see that it's not as easy as snapping your fingers and you will put some trust and respect to the people that have earned it.
There's no disputing the BGA currently has a highly credentialed group working hard. Yet the question of the value of the Membership Certificate itself as currently attained is valid in my mind. Full membership takes nothing except a payment. Once upon a time I questioned the Roaster's Guild requiremnt of new members being sponsored by Guild members. In some ways it makes sense and adds some validity to their membership. And if the BGA is modeled after the Guilds of yore, seems first membership level would be an apprentice membership, not full membership. That's were certification and testing could come into play. Exactly how without costing applicants an arm and a leg, now that's tricky indeed. While some aspects could be tested from anywhere online, the practical parts of testing would need to be in the real world with real machines.

Indeed certification classes are becoming available. I certainly don't have the time or money to go off and get certified. So far in today's wonderful economy I have succeeded in keeping my doors open and never missing an employee payroll. That's more important than my BGA membership Certificate hanging in my shop...which it is.
Mike,

thanks for your response. Everyone has a value equation for whether or not spending money makes sense. The BGA EC understands that and it is why they continue to work hard to add value. I think as the Certification program continues to roll out you will be pleasantly surprised and excited to see how it has been implemented.
I'm not Mike, but I'm looking forward to it. I'm not "anti-BGA", or I wouldn't be a member. That having been said, there has to be something about it that would make people want to join. Adding value is exactly what's needed. Sometimes the fire needs another log.

Dan Streetman said:
Mike,

thanks for your response. Everyone has a value equation for whether or not spending money makes sense. The BGA EC understands that and it is why they continue to work hard to add value. I think as the Certification program continues to roll out you will be pleasantly surprised and excited to see how it has been implemented.
Wow, not sure where to start, but I will try. Let me clarify a few things. One is, NO ONE comes and "plops down $45 and gets a certificate." It is obvious in several of these posts that some of you have not really delved into the certification process, and that's cool. It's new. But, before you get all worked up about it, read about it. Level one is the only level where one could "test out" after completing only one of the prerequisite classes. And for the record, in Atlanta, more than 50% didn't pass the exam, and will have to retake it. A certification is only as good as how it's measured, and we feel like the exam adequately assesses that if someone is able to pass the exam, they would have the skills and knowledge on a Level One level. After Level One, all prerequisite classes will have to be taken before taking the exam.
Your points are also valid, that currently this certification doesn't hold alot of weight. It's a new program all around. Our goal is that people, owners, baristas, would see the value, and the value of the certification would speak for itself. That people could expect that if a shop was loaded with Level One certified baristas, we could expect a good SCAA standard shot of espresso out of a shop. We are paying customers, too, and I would love to have a way to judge whether my money is well spent or not, too. So does it have that value now, very much like you would look for an ASE Certified mechanic? No, not yet, again, it's new, but it has to start somewhere. I can tell you there are people genuinely committed to the purpose of the certification, and how much it will benefit shops and customers all over the country. The barista will take better pride in what they do, be more skilled, hopefully be able to earn more pay, the customer will have more trust in the barista, and have expectations that can be fulfilled.
I think to Mike's point, though, yes, any barista can join the BGA. We are working hard to make this part of community as accessible to all. Yes, $45 will get you a card, multiple discounts people forget about like discounts on all SCAA or BGA classes, free BGA certification exams, members-only events, a larger voice in what's going on by being a part of an organized force of baristas, but what it won't do is make you a better barista. That is something you have to do yourself. The Barista Guild can afford you lots of opportunities, jams, workshops, etc. but you have to let your passion drive you to get better. The Barista Guild will support you, give you a dedicated person in your region who will support you in events you want to participate in or host. The Barista Guild will continue to fight for the barista in every venue, but you have to remember that you get out of things what you are willing to put into them.
So, I recommend people take a look at the certification. Take a look at the current benefits for BGA members. Take a look at the events the BGA is sponsoring like the upcoming Southeast Regional Jam, the Barista Camp next year, the value is there already. It will continue to grow in value, and we are working hard constantly to pour more value into the BGA, but again, the value is there. We are committed to making the BGA everything you want it to be, but as it is a guild, a fellowship of sorts, we will need your help. For those that say it's not what I want, what do you want it to do for you? What are you willing to do to help?

Chris said:
Dan Streetman said:
I have a gym membership but I haven't been in two months, and I am still trying to lose the same 20 lbs that I was in January. Is that the gym's fault?.....

Just like joining the gym gives me access to facilities, equipment, and knowledge, being a part of the BGA gives me access to some of the best, most knowledgeable and helpful baristas in specialty coffee.
...where the rubber meets the road is that the BGA needs more manpower and more resources to accomplish all of the things that everyone complains we don't do, or that we should be doing.

Well, the gym has real facilities near your house, and a lot of really shiny kit, and staff that maintains that kit, and cleans it, and... the analogy starts to fall apart. Comparing the BGA and the gym really isn't analogous, nor helpful in illustrating what the BGA is or isn't.

I had the same issue with the local union here. they kept telling me that they wanted me to join because the needed me. If I've all the skills and nouse that they really need, why are they asking me to pay *them*?
Just like anything else in life, folks want to see what it is that they're getting for their money, their participation, their input and their time. I'm hearing what a great thing that it is for the BGA, and for the coffee community, and a whole lotta vague hoo-rah about how the coffee community benefits, but not much concrete, although, the classes are a real exception. Any real training that could be had is beneficial. I dare say that Jason Haeger could teach quite a few, and that there may not be too much that one could teach that guy about coffee unless one were pretty damned educated on the subject. He's taught me quite a bit.
I've been harping about certification and standardization for about four years now, and yeah, I know that there are a lot of you that are tired of it. But the truth of the matter is, that if it were started four years ago, right this very minute, someone would be looking in a yellow pages, on Google, or on some smart-phone app, for a coffee shop that bore the BGA seal of approval, or advertised BGA certified baristi. Because there are quite a few folks that need some way to separate the wheat from the chaff. Now, the kid down the street that operates the Super-Auto at the coffee drive-thru (the one that puts out a twelve second, no crema, white foam, boiling hot dishwater thin, doppio of about three and a half ounces) has a BGA certificate over his station.
The question that we're asking here, is, why is it that you think that we want to be giving up our hard-earned cash every year simply to be equated with that kid?
Make the certification mean something. Make it valuable to the coffee-buying and coffee drinking public, and we'll value it.

It's about respect, and trust. Both things that must be earned. Both things that, given blindly, aren't worth spit.
You want our respect, and you want our membership, show us that it's worth it.

Standards, my favorite harp. Without them, there is no certification that will be able to be quantified in any meaningful way.
Again, if the certificate means nothing more than you're eager, and you used to have $45, well, that's all it means. Show us one that means that knowledgeable people have measured your skill and talent, and found it at very least acceptable, and let them get used to the idea that every time they see that logo in a shop that they get superior coffee, and you'll be beating baristi off with a stick.
Call it what you will, certificate or whatever, but you do get a suitable for framing Barista Guild Member In Good Standing certificate or diploma or award looking thingy which states "In recognition for your commitment and dedication to the Barista Guild of America and the craft of preparing quality coffee".

Get recognized for "preparing quality coffee" with zero testing or tasting involved, simply paying up. THAT was the focus of my point...

And don't get me wrong, I'm NOT knocking the BGA or the work being done and improvements being made...

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