My Perspective: Ted Lingle — Founding Member and First Executive Director of SCAA

Dear Friends:

The proposed merger between SCAA and SCAE is an important next step for both organizations. I am very much in favor of this merger, as I believe it will have a positive outcome. Here is why:

1. The North American “coffee revolution” that a small group of people helped start and manage more than 30 years ago has morphed into a “world-wide movement” that touches the lives of coffee consumers around the globe. Nowhere is this more prominent than in Asia, which I consider to be the “last coffee frontier” and is now the fastest growing coffee consumer segment in the world.

2. The people who now carry the torch we lit so long ago, the instructors who teach the programs SCAA and SCAE helped develop, are now asking the question about why they need two credentials, SCAA and SCAE, to present virtually the same curriculum in order to offer certification programs to their students. In effect they are asking why can’t SCAA and SCAE cooperate as they have so successfully with the World Coffee Events program, which began as the World Barista Championship in a corporation co-owned by SCAA and SCAE.

3. The proposed merger is not as much about forming a “world coffee organization” - we don’t need or want to compete with the ICO, as much as it is about maintaining the core principles that motivated so many of us when we first got involved in specialty coffee: “quality is sustainable;” “standards through education;” “equity along the value chain;” and "equal participation by producers.” If SCAA and SCAE take the lead in moving this agenda forward forward, these core values will become a permanent part of the coffee industry.

4. Mergers are not easy and I admire the resolve of both SCAA’s and SCAE’s Boards in wanting to try. I believe there are two major hurdles to overcome: 1) governance; and 2) revenue sharing. It’s one thing to make verbal commitments, but it is quite another to actually give up both “control and financial resources.” However, SCAA and SCAE have done a remarkably good job in expanding the World Coffee Barista championship into an international event that encompasses a wide range of professional technical skills that has attracted thousands of young coffee consumers to our industry.

5. There is a huge risk in taking no action on this issue. The need and demand for a unified program is so great in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, India, and the Middle East that some group will figure out how to do this. When they do, there is no guarantee that the same core values will remain as integral parts of the specialty coffee industry, which would be a significant set back for the coffee producers on which our industry is entirely dependent.

So I’m asking you to vote in favor of the merger. I believe it will be a significant step forward over the long term.


Ted Lingle