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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Replies to This Discussion

miKe mcKoffee aka Mike McGinness said:
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".

I don't think that's true any more. I got a laminated card with my number on it.
Ya know, I think you're right. When I renewed earlier this year don't recall getting a new "certificate" in addition to new membership card. My bad and apologies.

Hey, maybe those old "certificates" will become collectors items and we'll all clean up on eBay!
(I won't hold my breath:-)

Brady said:
miKe mcKoffee aka Mike McGinness said:
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".

I don't think that's true any more. I got a laminated card with my number on it.
This has been an interesting discussion. As a newer Chapter Rep, I've personally found these questions valuable - they've pointed to the things that should be priorities: I should do what I can to help bring more value to membership.

If you look at the variety of responses here, its clear that there are several points of view. I think the heart of the question has two parts:
What IS the BGA doing for its membership? and
What CAN the BGA do for its membership?

I hope it is pretty clear from the prior posts that the main focus of the EC at this point is Certification. All resources are focused on rolling out Level 1 and completing the work on Levels 2 and 3. I think this focus makes sense, because it is something that the BGA CAN do for its members, it is something that many members have asked the BGA to do, and it matches up well with the goals of the organization.

So lets look at what has been created here...
A quality training program to educate members and build competency.
Hands-on and written tests to verify that the skills are actually present.
A small-but-growing pool of certified trainers and examiners, to deliver both of the above.

This, in my mind, is the sort of thing that a national organization of volunteers can be expected to create. Good job, EC.

What the EC can't do is wave their hands and make BGA Certification mean something to its members. They would if they could, but they really can't. This, to me, is where the membership comes in. I'm going to say what some of the posters before me said in a slightly different way...

If you want BGA membership to say something about your skills as a barista, get behind certification and make it mean something.

If you are a working barista, get certified. If you are a shop owner, send your people to be certified. If you are a community organizer, contact your Chapter Rep and ask how you can offer classes in your area. If you are a trainer, ask about future opportunities to become SCAA-certified. If you have a training center, ask about future opportunities to become a test administrator.

Clearly, this program is going to take a little time to roll out. The important thing to recognize is that the thing has started moving. However, I think it is at a critical point right now - it needs the support of the membership TODAY to get off the ground. If we work together to make it work we'll all benefit from it down the road.

I hope this helps.
Word to everything Brady just said. Word up.
I am probably one of the newest members of the BGA, and I consider myself the least skilled, as I have never worked behind an espresso machine in my life. For the first time a few weeks ago, I pulled my first shot on a decent machine, and poured my first latte....it was uuuugly. I love coffee. I love preparing a french press and blowing someone's mind with the flavor. I desperately want to learn all I can about coffee preparation, so that I can offer my customers a phenomenal experience. I can read all kinds of books, but qualified, hands-on training is the only way I will truly understand how to make these products. (I mean, would you understand what "blonding" was without seeing it happen?) I understand the concern of some, who question the fact that someone like me can sign up, pay my dues, and get a membership card, and have pulled only one shot. But that's just membership. Certification requires I invest my hard-earned dollars, my intellect, and my passion about coffee in taking classes and meeting certain standards so I can achieve a higher level of proficiency. Does this have value to me? Bet your bottom dollar, it does! BGA membership enables me to have tools available to prepare me for taking the step to becoming certified, both in resources and in valuable discounts. Sure, it will take me years to get certified and gain the experience represented by those in this discussion currently, and I am in awe of your collective knowledge. So if you're looking for a "reason" to join the BGA, and you are concerned about the quality of the industry, remember that there are a bunch of us untrained, unprepared, caffeine-stoked barista wannabes who need some firm, knowledgeable mentoring. I mean, the last thing I want to do is cheapen your, and my, job description by being that BGA member who is serving dishwater-thin espresso!
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.

Firstly, it was a simile. Guilds and unions share quite a lot, as one begat the other. I never suggested that they should operate the seam way, but that they came at me with the same approach. One that confused me.
Secondly, suggesting that my skills were such that the BGA should pay me wasn't what I'd hoped you'd take away form that story. What I'd hoped that you would garner from it was that we all want to know what the $45 is for. Just like anyone else that you ask for money from.

"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.

If we're to do all the work, what's the money for? It's no longer for certification...

Alright Francis, settle down.
Quite a bit of the things that I suggested (some say 'harped') about have been addressed, and oddly enough, lots of them in just the manner that I would have hoped that they would be. There have been huge and sweeping changes since I adopted the position that prompted that post. Good on the BGA, and it's present leaders for that.
I'm a consumer as much as anyone else. If I want to go somewhere and get a great coffee, I'd love to be able to look up the membership, see who is certified as what and working where in my town, or whatever town I'm working in or visiting. The BGA would be the perfect place for that. And, if it happened, and was publicised, the coffee drinking public would flock to it.
To make that work, however, every barista listed would *absolutely have* to be qualified for that certification. If I look up a BGA certified barista, and go to his shop and find him pulling Costco beans in a fifteen second four ounce doppio, I'm not blaming him, I'm blaming the certification process. And the certifying authority. That's just human nature.
OTOH, if I look on the BGA site to find my barista, and every time I go where they send me, I find what they say I'll find, that's my new reference material. And there is no way that that is anything but good for the rest of the certified baristi. And at that point, it is up to the certifying authority to weed out the unqualified, and promote the certified. It is the responsibility of those that are certified to keep up their training and skill set. It's simple self-promotion and self-preservation for the 'baristi in the streets' to do so.
And if you prefer the term 'guild' to 'union hall' you should really go look at what a guild is. Guilds have traditionally been the holders of standards and trade secrets, trade skills, and training new associates and apprentices. Guilds have always (and this may be where I went awry, supposing that by calling it a guild it would perform as a guild) been about setting a standard, and *not allowing anyone that hadn't shown that they possess the requisite skill set to practice an art*. Seeing that kid that pushed the button on the super in possession of a guild certification was what made me feel that they were worthless back then. Guilds have always been very serious about who got recognition as an Apprentice, never allowed to work without supervision of one of the Masters; a Journeymen (one who had been trained fully by one Master, and encouraged to go out and 'journey' to other Masters so that their skill set wouldn't be inbred; and a Master, or one who had been trained fully and exposed to many different techniques and styles, able to choose an appropriate solution for any task or challenge.
Masters had an obligation to teach, to protect their craft, and to make themselves available, as those Master before them had taught them.

I'm beginning to see the beginnings to that in the present BGA.
As an example, though, I'd like to point out that the BGA website is where I'd suspect that I should look for the schedule and information on regional events and competitions, as well as how and where one might go to become a certified barista. Either I'm really bad at finding that information, or they're not that great at presenting it.
OTOH, I just heard that we have a new regional rep in the SW, and I have much personal respect for the man.*
Things can only go up form here...

*Not that I don't have respect for the rest of the folk out there shouldering the yoke!


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