Like all things SCAA, it's just FUBAR.
Just had a barista competitor for the SERBC come into the shop. This competitor mentioned that it's being held in Atlanta (sucks) and that it's in a few weeks (lame).
The USBC/SCAA has known for a long time now that they were going to force the six regionals into the first quarter of 2011 - ostensibly because they didn't want regional champions from 3Q 4Q 2010 to have an "advantage" over those who may compete in 1Q 2011.
In that effort, no real communication has been made until very recently as to when and where the competitions will be held, resulting in competitors rushing to prepare and scrambling to make travel arrangements (this is exactly how it was described to me for the SERBC). On top of that, by compressing all the regionals into 1Q 2011, the availability of quality, experienced judges is hampered, diminished or outright eliminated because not that many people have the financial, personal and commitment resources to be away 36 days in 1Q 2011.
36 because the typical regional competition take three days to hold, add two days for "judges training" and an additional day for travel and you've been away nearly a week.
That's just lame and a perfect example of why I don't judge in the United States.
Let's add to that that the date for SERBC was only just formally announced this week, and registration opened a couple of days later. A little over 1 month from the competition?
Let's add to that that competitor registration is now $300 for non-BGA members vs $150 for members? I can understand a $30-40 course registration fee differential, but $150 when membership is $45? Though I think we all understand the reasoning, I'd really like to hear the justification for that.
I'd like to point out that I've been a pretty strong supporter of the SCAA and BGA here and elsewhere in the past, but stuff like this gives me pause.
Forgive me if this rambles a bit...or hijacks a bit...
firstly I'll say that I truly love all the people behind the SCAA and the BGA and the hard work they put into what they really believe in...this is in no way intended as personal affront but more as a hope for some course correction.
Associationslend a relatively artificial creditability to our industry. I could easily make up an acronym and attach it to my shop or myself and mybaristas and the ones who make our shop possible (the customers) willnot know any different. And tragically we would not see a difference either. At the moment the only thing I can see membership providing issavings on a narrow margin of things I may not need, and a set of pretenses that only a select group of people who have nothing to do withthe success of my shop care about. Our industry is leaning toward myopic self congratulation by association more and more.
I like the ideas behind the BGA certification in that it raises the general bar...but I never have liked promoting the word "certification"... Tests and competitions can be passed and won but real life can be failed and lost promptly after achieving those artificial success' ...are we promoting real life coffeeskills or just coffee preparation skills in a vacuum? Too much emphasisis placed on the barista and not enough placed on the larger context that supports makes the baristas job possible.
Whenever I think about the passionate promotion of certifications and associations taking emphasis off of the promotion of good business and professionalism I cannot help but also have pause and think it is not unlike shuffling the deck chairs onthe Titanic.
Our industry needs better run quality shops way more than it needs better baristas. Better baristas come from the better shops naturally, not the other way around. I would love to see this be the direction the BGA heads (manager training, customer servicetraining etc.) I have hopes that it will... and will volunteer, promote, and support the association as long as I have those hopes.
In the end though...the daily business of quality coffee will be bettered by a constant pursuit of excellence tried and tested by those who invest their energies more into real life cafe work and less into memberships, parties, and associations.
the $150 discount is ridiculous. if there were tangible benefits to joining the BGA, i would have done so already. creating artificial benefits through grossly discounted competition fees is manipulative and further discredits whatever reputation the BGA had outside of its own members.
announcing a date for a major regional competition just over a month out is inefficient and inconsiderate. we do have shops to run and schedules to make. owners have to REALLY plan ahead to support a competition barista. a month isn't enough time. i know for a fact it discouraged one of my baristi from competing.
i totally agree with chris concerning a focus on ownership over baristi. the current hurdle the specialty coffee industry faces is a lack of concerned owners, not a lack of concerned baristi. it's a relatively arduous task to motivate myself and constantly seek excellence. i'm not a perfectionist by nature, and in the past year and a half i've learned so much about myself and in what areas i need to improve. there aren't many coffee specific resources i can utilize to improve in those areas, however. i can learn how to cup, extract, texture milk, and discuss specialty coffee. it's much harder to learn how to properly motivate a crew, hold them to standards, install protocols, build a café and workplace culture, etc. those are the issues i face now. my baristi make good coffee, although it can and will get better. but what are the next steps for me to take to become a better shop owner? short notice baristi competitions or west coast-only industry showcases sure as hell aren't going to help with that.
oh, and mike, if you haven't given up hope of the SCAA website ever being properly updated, then i've got some beanie babies and pogs to sell you.
How about one more?
For volunteer judges, registration fee is $50 if you aren't a BGA member.
Just spoke with someone regarding the $50 "volunteer" judges registration fee.
You do not need to pay the $50 fee if you are a BGA member or you and/or your company is an SCAA member. The SCAA decided to charge $50 to their "volunteer" judges because they believe that there is some value to the training and certification of regional judges.
While certainly a first-time judge will learn quite a bit in these certification courses, that "certification" is good only for that regional competition and means nothing once the competition is completed.
What this means is that if you decide to judge in multiple regionals, you will have to attend, complete and pay the $50 "volunteer" registration fee for each and every regional the the USBC - even though the rules, training and "certification" for each of the regionals is exactly the same.
Of course, if you join the BGA for $45 this eliminates the $50 per competition "volunteer" fee. However, what it does not eliminate is their requirement that you foot the bill for two extra days to attend each regional "certification".
What does this mean? Let's say you are a person who wants to judge a couple of the regionals and then the USBC in Houston. You start off by attending the two-day certification class in Atlanta prior to the SERBC. That costs you two days of lodging and meals, along with additional car rental days and whatever expenses you occur in addition to taking time off of work and probably losing out on those days pay.
If you decide to "volunteer" your efforts to judge the remaining five regionals, you will need to dedicate an additional ten days solely to take a class and learn the material of which you have already been certified prior to the SERBC. Your judges "certification" is valid for that SERBC only and you must attend and pass each regional judges certification class to be allowed to judge any regional competition.
And those aforementioned ten days are strictly for "certification" and not the actual competitions themselves. Add competition days and you're talking 25 days total. That's 25 days of travel, hotels, 75 meals, car rentals and more - all because the SCAA is desperate to charge you $50 per competition so that you can "volunteer" your time.
Now, someone reasoned with me that the fee is being charged because attendees will receive "value" from the experience. That they will receive tangible training in standards and coffee knowledge. Okay, I can kind of see that. But we're also talking about an organization (SCAA/USBC and by extension and practice, the WBC) that now deigns to con people into paying for this "certification" and then expecting them to "volunteer" their time.
Certainly an argument can be made for the training fee if the judges were being compensated for their efforts. But since the SCAA/USBC expects everyone to volunteer their time, foot their own expenses and offer nothing in return (not even a thank you dinner to judges and other volunteers) this fee really is a Slap In The Face to those who generously DONATE their efforts and expertise.
SCAA: you're asking people do VOLUNTEER and DONATE their time and their own money to make your event successful. The very least you had been doing is certifying them complimentary. Now you don't even do that??? That's some serious arrogance.
I've done a lot of volunteering in the effort of promoting the SCAA, USBC, BGA and WBC over the years and the organizational attitude towards the volunteers throughout all levels of the ranks has not improved. New blood to the SCAA did not bring forth change, it continued on its course of narrow-mindedness, exploitation and cronyism - all of this from supposedly some of the most "respected" people in specialty coffee.
Apparently, while there's a lot of lip service done towards "improving the conditions" for the farmers" they deign to degrade the conditions for their own volunteers.
wow a little late to the party here, and a lot to tackle. let me see if I can address it all...
sorry that your regional information was not more promptly updated on the website. Let me assure you that it is in no way intended as slight towards your regional, and is most likely an oversight.
as always thank you for bringing attention to where things can be improved, but this time I think your characterization is a little out of line. Especially to imply that the current circumstances were a purposeful move on behalf of the SCAA. Unfortunately most of what has happened has to do with many circumstances that are outside of SCAA control. For example, A lot of the timing of the competitions has to do with when we are able to garner host support, and unfortunately that just happened to be in the first quarter of this year. Believe me, we were pushing very hard to do a regional in October or November early this year, but then when camp had to be moved (because of previous venue being sold) that pushed everything back and hampered availability for key resources, and made timing nearly impossible.
We could talk about whether champs from Q3 or Q4 would have an advantage but I'm sure there are as many opinions on that as there are barista competitors.
As to Judging, Jay, no one expects you, or any judge to come to every regional, we would be more then happy for you to come and judge at one regional. Yes 5 days is a long time to be away, but you can easily come in on a Wednesday and leave on a Sunday. We only have one day of judges training at the regional level. Let me say personally, that I really do wish that you would judge, even if it is only one regional.
as to the fee increases, you may assume that the fee differential is to drive membership, and you would partially be right. There is however a much deeper reasoning. If you look on past years' regional financial schematic sponsors were paying for over 90% of the competitions cost to operate. Even at the new fee structure, revenues from registration will not cover the cost of putting on the competition. Not to mention the calls for ever increasing production value, via streaming, video etc. All of which COST MONEY. It is amazing to me that barista competitions happen when I look at how much they cost to put on. Speaking from personal experience (working for a company that hosted 3 regionals) it takes tons of time and money to make these things happen. I'm sometimes surprised that they happen at all. The change in fee structure is an effort to hopefully make the competition structure more financially sustainable into the future, and provide avenues for growth in production value, and publicity.
Personally this is where I would be critical of the SCAA and say that they try too hard to be affordable and accessible, and should be charging more to members, and non-members alike but that is a whole other point entirely.
yes, you are on another topic but I'm happy to address it here. To your point, yes you are right in many respects and I'm sorry that you feel that way. I would hazard to guess that you have not taken any of the BGA's certification tests or classes based on the nature of your characterization though. I would tell you that what you are saying about professionalism, customer service, and management are all true. The members of the Barista Guild Executive Council are working tirelessly to create content and certifications that look beyond the beverage. In fact you may notice that the one mandatory class to receive level 1 certification is customer service. All of the other content you can test out of. We were talking just this week about how to integrate more material in this vein into our current level 2 content, and how it will shape level 3.... so please get involved, and stay tuned.
sorry to hear that the SCAA/BGA hasn't lived up to your expectations. I respectfully disagree with your assertions about the short notice of the competition dates. I understand why it could be frustrating if you had not already planned ahead, but realistically you do not need competition dates to begin preparing for competition. I know several baristas who have started working on their routines, and thinking about their coffess because they knew competition season was coming up...
" it's much harder to learn how to properly motivate a crew, hold them to standards, install protocols, build a café and workplace culture, etc. those are the issues i face now. my baristi make good coffee, although it can and will get better. but what are the next steps for me to take to become a better shop owner? short notice baristi competitions or west coast-only industry showcases sure as hell aren't going to help with that.
sorry, the last half of my response got cut off...
to Jared's point about culture..... I understand completely where you are coming from here, and agree. In fact I would say it has been one of the greatest benefits of my continued involvement with BGA was working with folks like Scott Lucey, Heather Perry, Anne Nylander, and Chris Baca. (do I have to list everyone? they are all great) Because guess what, they have tons of ideas on how to hold staff accountable, and maintain standards. They also love sharing them, some more freely than others... They also are working hard to develop exactly this kind of curriculum as we speak.
I'm not sure where the resentment about West Coast events comes from, except that Conference and BGA Camp where both held on the West Coast this year, and that is an unfortunate reality. I will say however that we just had SCAA Expo in Atlanta 2 years ago, and even the WBC. While I am a little disappointed that SCAA passed on hosting WBC this year, in my home-state of Texas, and the first time Conference will be held there since the mid-90's.... but I very much respect the rationale behind taking WBC to an origin country. So to me, the "not in my backyard" mantra sounds a lot like whining.
btw... If you don't feel that the SCAA or BGA has anything to offer you, you don't have to participate or even take notice... We'll still work hard providing great content, and events for the people who do.
lastly Brady again...
Believe it or not this was an idea from our USBC Head Judges crew. We wanted to express that there is a lot of value associated with the education we provide our judges. Without passing the Judges certification you receive 8 hours of hands on training in how to objectively analyze espresso. This is unparalleled in our industry and an insane value at $50. Also, if you look at past judges... in the history of regional competitions there has only been one person who attempted to judge who was not from an SCAA member company or BGA Member. We also thought that it would help to attract people who would take judging more seriously, rather than "hey I will do this it will be fun".
let me say thank you for providing me an opportunity to communicate on behalf of the SCAA (unofficially) and it's many volunteers. It is sometimes difficult for us to communicate all the things that need to be communicated to all the people it must be communicated to. I hope that you found my responses informative and have some what allayed your frustration/confusion/disappointment.
BGA Executive Council Member
USBC Head Judge
That is great to hear. And I will absolutely support those efforts...as well as the beverage focused ones.
Dan Streetman said:
The members of the Barista Guild Executive Council are working tirelessly to create content and certifications that look beyond the beverage. In fact you may notice that the one mandatory class to receive level 1 certification is customer service. All of the other content you can test out of. We were talking just this week about how to integrate more material in this vein into our current level 2 content, and how it will shape level 3.... so please get involved, and stay tuned.
I think Dan has given some excellent responses to the concerns posted here. I will just jump in to say that I totally admire the leadership and clear vision the Barista Guild leadership has shown here. I strongly support Dan's assertion that the BGA has done a great job giving support and development opportunities to coffeeshop owners, managers, and shift baristas alike.
The barista competitions are an incredibly complex and expensive thing to put on. As has been mentioned, it costs the SCAA about $450 per competing barista to put on a regional barista comp. A successful regional competition is a miracle of cooperation and mutual support, between sponsors, volunteers, SCAA staff, and competing baristas. I think the current approach- where responsibilities and costs are spread a little more equitably among all those involved- is a lot more rational. I would encourage competing baristas to seek out more direct support through individual sponsorships with roasting companies, equipment manufacturers, etc. I think there are HUGE opportunities here for everyone!
Chris, I disagree with your opinions about associations. We have achieved so much through the power of working together- without the SCAA, BGA, RG we would have no cupping forms, no barista competitions, no standards.... it's sometimes easy to take all of these things for granted. It's not as easy as putting together an acronym. Your ideas about focusing on shop owners are sound- why not get involved and make that even more of a reality? I know that your business includes training for shop owners and baristas alike- why not add your voice into actually steering the BGA rather than trying to do it from a discussion board on the internet? You've been such a great leader in the barista community in the past.
Jay, on the other hand... when are you going to quit this bogus conspiracy theory stuff? Here you have the leadership and staff of the BGA and SCAA doing the best they can, and you invent conspiracy theories about how they are trying to "con" everyone. You should be ashamed of yourself, Jay. Quit posting this stuff. You will now proceed to pretend that you have spoken truth to power, and that you are speaking "for the people". You're not. The "people" are working hard to push the craft of the barista forward, and you insult them even as they do their work by inventing bogus reasons to criticize them. The "people" are working hard to perfect their competition routines. You're busy judging barista competitions in other countries or something (?). I'm standing up in defense of these volunteers against your bogus tirades, Jay. Please stop it.
There are lots of great questions and concerns that people have, and I am always ready to hear them. I know the leadership of the BGA feels the same way.
Jay, I’m sorry you feel that way. I don’t remember anyone asking you to judge at every regional. Also, you judge in another country? What does that cost you in time? At least five days? Oh. Also, you say it sucks that it’s Atlanta? Well, where would you like it? Where is most central and accessible, affordable to fly into and has the facilities to host such an event? I’m all about people who bring up problems, as long as they bring up solutions. And BTW, it’s in a month. Not a few weeks. And like Dan said, the SERBC happens every year. I don’t know of anyone who is going to compete that just starts prepping once they hear the date. Also, I don’t think you have to attend both days of the Judges Workshop if you’ve completed one already in that calendar year.
Brady, circumstances around finding the most affordable facility and nailing it down took longer this year due to circumstances beyond our control. As far as the cost, I will just copy what I wrote on Coffeed, as it’s the same answer:
“The bottom line is, it costs a lot of put on these barista competitions. The average cost for each competitor is $500. And sponsors for these events are becoming harder and harder to find in this trying economy. So, the money has to come from somewhere. Still, if you figure, with a BGA membership, your cost is $150, which still leaves $350 the SCAA has to cover for you to compete, which is a benefit to you, not to the SCAA. Start doing the math in your head how much it costs to get a facility that can host that many people, plus has the electrical needs and plumbing needs, plus is easy to travel to/near an airport, plus has a loading dock, plus what it costs to send all the needed equipment and supplies to each venue, plus the manpower from the SCAA to staff and support it, plus insurance, plus, well, you see it adds up quite heftily. “
That should be all the reasoning you need. The SCAA is merely asking competitors and judges to help shoulder the load for something that primarily benefits them.
Chris, let me say that as one of the writers and biggest proponents of the BGA’s Certification, I don’t think you get it. I don’t think you get the fact that baristas deserve more respect, pay, and better training for what they do. And the certification will do that. The certification will help you as a shop owner know that you have a barista that knows current standards for espresso. That knows how to brew good coffee. That knows how coffees are grown and processed. Is that of no value to you? What about to the shop owner who doesn’t have to spend time and money training said baristas because they’ve went through certification? For so many years we’ve had independent roaster certifications that don’t mean jack when they go to other companies, or have no connection to SCAA standards sometimes. This is one that is universal. This shows that a barista has a solid understanding of all the things that make them better coffee professionals. A very rounded education. You don’t think that has value? Do you think CoffeeFest’s barista certification does? This certification is all about the barista and shop owner. Do you think it’s just to blow smoke for anyone? Seriously.
Jared, I am sorry you don’t see the value of the BGA. I don’t know how after all this time showing baristas the value you don’t see it. For real man. Ok, let me put it to you as I have for so many before. The BGA is like Costco. If you don’t go in and buy sugar at bulk which saves you money, or that pair of jeans for $20 off, or that gas that saves you $5 when you fill up each time, then Costco probably isn’t for you. But if you do, you will save way more than you pay. The BGA offers endless discounts on training that is already reasonable priced. You wanna complain about paying $100 for a two and a half hour latte art lab with Scott Lucey, Heather Perry, Dan Streetman, Sammy Piccolo, and others??? How much would that cost you in the real world? Take a look at Heather Perry’s classes and their costs. Seriously, I’m so sick of this lame argument. If you don’t think cheap training is a value, I don’t know what is. You don’t think being able to take the Level One certification exam for free is a value? You don’t think saving money on registering to compete or judge? Really? Come on. Not to mention the discounts given by allied members like EspressoParts and others.
And to finish up, I’ve benefitted greatly by my involvement in both the BGA, and SCAA. I’ve had the opportunity to not only learn from some of the greatest minds in coffee, but to also work alongside them. I owe a great deal to the resources they’ve shared with me. And as so, I, along with all the members of the BGA Executive Council, have worked incredibly hard over the past years to build a guild you can be proud to be a part of. We works hours and hours each week on top of our normal jobs to better the lives and welfare of baristas everywhere through things like the Certification, cutting edge education, community building efforts, etc. And we do it voluntarily for people like you, and plenty of other people who will only downplay our efforts and hard work. But be assured, we’re working for all baristas, to make sure that baristas are better respected in the marketplace. That baristas can be the frontline for a specialty coffee industry we all love and cherish. So that baristas can grow themselves, and find further employment and opportunities in the coffee industry. And so that we can all go into a coffee shop, and know that we’re not going to waste our own money.
Thanks for coming on and attempting to address the issues involved here.
Is that to say that the hosts of the regionals refused to do anything before 1Q 2011??? Because what I've been told is that it was a conscious decision on the part of the SCAA/USBC to push the regionals until 1Q 2011 - in part to eliminate that perceived 3Q/4Q "advantage."
Since we're being open about talking that it costs a lot to stage a competition, let's not try to gloss over the fact that the WBC is in Bogota because someone paid enough for it to be there. As it should, the WBC (or WCE) is interested in driving revenue and the country with the most cash hosts. That's a fair enough game and we shouldn't be shy about acknowledging that fact.
I'll go along with your assertion that there has only been one person in the history of the USBC Regionals that was not an SCAA Member, affiliated with an SCAA Member company or a BGA member. I think we can agree that one person over ten years and perhaps thousands of judges is insignificant in terms of potential lost revenue.
However, based on that data alone, we can deduct that the number of future judges that are non-members will also be insignificantly low - making this $50 egregious.
I remember back to 2003-2004 when I was starting to get involved in the community. I wanted to travel and participate. I wanted to volunteer and learn. And then I wanted to share what little I knew.
Years later, I've been around for a little while and see things from a different perspective and I do not think that my characterization of the situation is "out of line."
What I'm advocating here is respect. Respect for those people who take the time to volunteer their time. Not just the one-off person who judges a single regional, but also that person who takes an inordinate amount of time volunteering, sweating blood and doing the hard work that it takes to operate the competitions without being a paid member of the SCAA Staff. In other words, I'm talking about people exactly like you.
I think it's safe to say that most of us involved in competitions as volunteers, judges or competitors do so because we love the camaraderie, the learning and the experience of sharing the experience. Volunteering can be a very personally rewarding experience and I would like to see more people being able to afford the costs of volunteerism. Which is why these kinds of penny-ante antics really irritate me.
Sad fact: the SCAA has a long history of neglecting the very people who make it successful.
Like you, I'm lucky enough to be invited to judge barista competitions around the world. It's a lot of concentrated hard work that's very rewarding. As you know, host nations take very nice care of visiting judges. So compare that to how the SCAA/USBC and WBC treat their judges and the differences are tremendously stark.
I understand the costs associated with a competition. It's not cheap and it's surprisingly (and shockingly) expensive. However, simply because a competition is expensive to run does not mean that its volunteers should be expected to suck it up. Or disregarded outright.
None of this discussion is new to you. These are the same issues we've chatted about over the years. And while it's been in discussion amongst volunteers, nothing really changes.
To be clear, I'm not expecting that the SCAA wake up and suddenly start footing all of the expenses of its volunteers (though that would be nice and should be the ultimate goal), but rather start off incrementally. Showing some level of appreciation beyond a silly certificate would be a start.
I see the volunteers at your level (meaning those volunteers who actually administer the competitions) traveling around the country and the world, at your own expense, only to be yelled at, berated and beaten down for your efforts by the salaried people you're volunteering for. That's simply unacceptable.
To start, a demonstration of that thanks and appreciation should be the bare minimum. A volunteer/judges dinner, perhaps? A party? Maybe even a little per diem?
Those people who actually are paid to run the events talk about how expensive it is to operate the competitions. Yes, it's expensive, but so too is volunteering! How about finding a way to ease that cost burden for the volunteers? Hotels are expensive - and the SCAA people should know this because they're always staying in the nicest hotels at any venue. Perhaps if they were staying at the Motel 6 the competitions wouldn't be so expensive to stage.
For any judge, you're asking that person to travel to the location on their own dollar, house themselves, feed themselves, transport themselves and much more. Show some appreciation for that sacrifice.
I remember as a competitor there were a couple of instances when I knew that the judges were incompetent. At the very least, a few of them lacked the experience and the knowledge to properly assess my presentation. And the longer the SCAA continues its practice of neglect, the more experienced judges (that you need for consistency and continuity) will continue to abandon the competitions.
In my experience, the very best judges were the ones you worked with the longest. Just about all of the experienced judges from when I started competing are no longer involved. This is a terrible situation. One that needs to be corrected. If the competitions deign to be recognized and respected then it needs to keep its best judges, not lose them because of myopic thinking that is supposedly looking at the bottom line.
You know, I judge because I truly enjoy working with people. With other judges, with the organizers and with the baristas themselves. I love hanging out with the baristas and the coffee people talking shop and doing whatever. But the reality is: it costs money to travel and volunteer - and if the SCAA can't get its stuff together to start showing some appreciation for the efforts of its volunteers then what is the incentive?
Let's face it, I can certainly hang out with baristas and coffee people without volunteering - and if I'm paying my own way with no sign of appreciation, why would I volunteer my efforts? Why would anyone?