The Benefits of Unification: A Perspective From Heather Perry

On Tuesday, July 5, SCAA members will have the opportunity to vote on whether we should unify with the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE) to form a global specialty coffee association. This is the culmination of many years of investigation, dreaming, and planning by hundreds of SCAA members, volunteers, our councils, our board of directors, and our colleagues at the SCAE. It’s been years in the making, from our early global collaborations like the World Barista Championship, to our Strategic Leadership Summit last June- where we began to sketch out what a global unified organization should look like, to the plans being put forward to our membership in the vote starting on Tuesday (July 5th). Many members have taken advantage of the ability to see the path we’ve taken by visiting frequently and weighing in with questions and comments. It’s been quite a journey. The SCAA board on which I serve with 12 other coffee professionals has been there all the way, poring over details, and ensuring that any unification serves our members first. We, together with the leadership of the SCAE, came up with a plan that we believe serves the members of our organizations, and finally puts specialty coffee where it belongs—on the world stage.

Last month, the SCAE membership had an election on whether to unify, and voted overwhelmingly to join with us to form a global coffee organization. Their members—baristas and roasters, farmers and coffee people just like us—voted to transfer their memberships to a global coffee organization if we met them halfway. They have extended their hand—our decision now is, do we shake it?

Ultimately, that decision comes down to how it benefits our membership. Since we believe that our first and only responsibility is to our members, this must be a benefit to every member in order for us to endorse the plan. Based on feedback from our membership- including a membership survey executed in 2015—we designed a plan to serve our membership better. The SCAA board voted unanimously to endorse the plan and send it to a member vote because we believe it gives the members the following benefits:

  • Since our members value a shared, global community, unification of the two associations reinforces the existing, diverse, global specialty coffee community and strengthens the bonds between coffee professionals.
  • Retailers—especially smaller ones—will benefit by increased access to knowledge, greater consumer awareness of specialty coffee worldwide, increased access to better coffees, all leading to more prosperity for their businesses.
  • Unification will enable greater collaboration, especially with the Guilds, across new geographies. We are worse off when we build walls, barriers, or isolate ourselves.  Members will see the results of belonging to a cause that is global and personal at the same time.
  • The unification will formalize the alignment of the two most impactful coffee education programs in the world, the SCAE Coffee Diploma System and SCAA Pathways, bringing a single curriculum to the world and uniting a dedicated group of educators, authors and developers.
  • We’ll be able to dedicate more resources to coffee research, strengthening academic ties and delivering more scientific, economic, and sustainability research to our community, answering the questions that remain mysteries in specialty coffee.
  •  We’ll be able to dedicate more resources to local events, increasing opportunities for diverse coffee professionals to come together locally, at the same time that we are increasing our influence globally.
  • Our new association will be ‘One member, One vote’, empowering individual voices in deciding the direction of our community.

Our board and councils have studied the economic impacts, staff resources, and potential benefits of the unification, and we feel strongly that this is a unique opportunity to bring the global specialty coffee together. Great coffee is dependent upon a global, grassroots network of people in many countries, and we feel strongly that our association should reflect that diversity and connection.

We’re thrilled and excited to recommend to our members that they vote YES when it’s time to cast their unification ballot next week.


Heather Perry
Vice President, SCAA Board of Directors