Curious to know if there is a "general" path one takes to become a Green Coffee purchaser for a Specialty Coffee company? Do you start out as a roaster? A barista? What are skill sets you think are invaluable? Asking from the point of view of a coffee novice looking at a career in coffee.
I don't think there's one generic path to follow ever in life. Barista is a good start; it's hard otherwise to break into the coffee industry, especially if you're not able to relocate. I'm transitioning to a coffee career and have been a barista in the past, but most of my background is in business. It has NOT been easy, but I've learn a ton on my own by attending trade shows/conferences, becoming a home roaster, traveling to origin countries, and reading (Kenneth David's book Home Coffee Roasting is essential; so is Roast magazine). I've had to be very self-sufficient and train myself over time. Just start immersing yourself in all things coffee, meet and talk to others, and eventually you'll find your path to green bean buying. Good luck!
I agree, Teresa. There's no one generic path to follow, and that is good because it just helps to reinforce my "where there's a will there's a way" mentality. My work background is pretty diverse and I feel I have some skills that already transfer to a coffee buyer career. Mostly, what I think I lack is so much of the technical side of coffee. My original thinking has been to find work as an apprentice roaster while also doing some on the side training as a Barista...building tech skills from the ground up and really understanding the bean. I've been reading Barista Magazine as well as Fresh Cup for the last 2 years and am picking up Roast. I don't expect to be a green coffee buyer anytime soon. I think it takes years to gain that kind of knowledge. I just want to try and start at the right point and where it feels a good fit.
I'm currently living in Mexico if anyone's interested in traveling to origin?! I'm about 6 hours from Veracruz state and the coffee town of Coatepec. Thanks all for your input!!
Sounds like we have a few things in common Chris. You're in a great position to make connections and observe things by living in Mexico. Ademas puedes practicar el espanol, lo que va a ser un gran beneficio en este tipo de trabajo. Your apprentice roaster/ barista plan sounds super. There are some great workshops at the SCAA annual show and Coffee Fest to help get you started with some of the technical training; there's also a wealth of experience right here in bx, which has helped me a lot. In the end though, there's no substitute for doing...so I hope you go for it!
Thanks for the input everyone. After some serious months pounding the pavement, waiting tables, relocating, and attending countless cuppings, I've managed to get myself into the coffee industry as an assistant coffee roaster and part-time barista. Looking forward to being a student and absorbing and applying as much as I can.
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