Cooperation and Collaboration in the Realm of Coffee Education

By Andrew Hetzel, Cafémakers

Two years ago while working in Africa, a young barista competitor approached me and asked, “is making espresso in American different than it is in Europe?” “Perhaps,” I replied. “There are stylistic differences among cultures all over the world but it’s all essentially the same principle.”  “Then why,” she continued, “are there separate training programs and certificates for European and American baristas?” It was a very insightful question.

Rockstar African baristas were not the only ones pondering that thought. It was around that same time the SCAA and SCAE decided to jointly cooperate in the creation of an association chapter in the U.A.E., with coffee education and professional development opportunities leading the venture. The Middle East is a relatively new and developing frontier for specialty coffee that shows promise for the future. As the two associations had seen firsthand in quickly emerging Asian markets, collaboration is the best way to accomplish the common goal of making coffee better. 

On the heels of this, past representatives of SCAA’s Educational Pathways staff, committee heads, and the board of directors met with key personnel and volunteers from SCAE in June this year in Atlanta. The goal of the meeting was to create another kind of pathway; one that would allow students and instructors from either association’s program to participate in the other. The group quickly found that there were more similarities between the two education systems than differences. A translation chart of course curriculum and requirements was developed and will be introduced to all members of both associations in early 2016. 

As a result of this effort, both SCAA and SCAE members are expected to have better access to more content. Less time will be spent choosing one program versus another when it is clear that anyone in the advancement of coffee knowledge has access to both. Further still, the alignment of education programs allows the bodies that develop content for each association to reduce duplication of effort and free resources to begin and explore new areas of coffee education that were previously beyond reach. Both programs become stronger by working together.

Moving ahead in 2016, less time will be focused on the political divide of an “American way,” or “European way” of making espresso, and more time on what both organizations already agree is a better way.