We all know that the seed to cup chain is extensive. Thousands of people worldwide, working to make coffee better. Producers, processors, agronomists, exporters, importers, roasters, chemists, sensory scientists, educators, and baristas. The specialty coffee industry is globally interconnected, whether or not there is a single organization or multiple organizations representing it. We are all working with the common goal of promoting specialty coffee. This idea begs the question, “So why unify?”
For me, there are three primary reasons unification is essential. They are community, education, and collaboration.
Joining the Barista Guild of America was one of the best decisions I ever made in regards to my career in specialty coffee. I was immediately immersed in a group of like minded individuals who openly shared their passion and knowledge for specialty coffee. Since joining the BGA, the resources available to me from the community have never run out. Whether it was a question about brew methods, people to bounce ideas off of, or having friends in any city I went to — the BGA has provided me with a seemingly endless community of incredible coffee people.
The thought of my community not just being American, but global is mind boggling. Community is one of the most incredible aspects of the BGA and SCAA, and the thought that we could grow that community to a size never before seen is beautiful. Even if the only benefit of increasing the size of the community was having friends around the world, that would be enough. But friends are far from the only benefit of an international community.
Different cultures have different perspectives on specialty coffee. Easier access to these perspectives not only helps us understand them better, but also allows for exponential growth of our own perspective on the industry. We can grow together. Fragmenting our communities creates barriers between us. We can break down those barriers and open up the lines of communication that come with a global organization.
A global product deserves global advocacy. As we grow as an industry I believe it is essential that we have an advocacy group that represents the beliefs of our industry as a whole, not just a segment. Unification will generate a bigger voice for our industry worldwide. Also, I do not believe that a unified voice will silence the voices of local groups or hinder local involvement. In fact, I believe the case to be the exact opposite. Local groups can have their voice heard by a global community instead of a national community. With the expanded resources a unified organization creates, local groups will have access to a global advocacy system allowing the voice of a small group to be heard worldwide.
As an educator, this is a big one for me. Of course I can check out the World Coffee Research website, the SCAA education website, or a host of other resources related to coffee information and education. But imagine the possibility of a unified coffee research database. Information from all over the world in one place. This doesn’t mean the research is done by one group, just that the access to research and information can become more easily accessible through centralization.
Not only can information become more easily accessible, but so can education. The possibility of coffee campuses worldwide with a unified education system is promising. This isn’t to say that there is only one way of doing things, but we all have to start with a solid base of knowledge to build off of. Creating a base that is accepted globally will improve the way coffee is prepared worldwide. Even now, so many people look to the SCAA and SCAE for everything from how to make espresso and brew coffee to roasting and agricultural science.
Unifying the educational systems will allow for less confusion. Also, it will not remove conversation. We aren’t talking about a dictatorship. We are talking about a member run organization where members have a say. There can, and will, be discussion and debate over standards that result in new ways of understanding coffee all over the world.
Lastly, the possibility for global collaboration is extremely exciting to me. Imagine a Bloom event where satellites are not just in cities in America, but cities all over the world. Coffee, by nature, is a collaborative effort. The seed to cup chain guarantees this. The possibilities for global collaboration increase drastically with unification. Research groups in America can collaborate with research groups in Europe. Roasters can collaborate with cafes all over the world. Baristas can collaborate with each other for recipes and more. What about an ingredient exchange where baristas send local ingredients to each other from all over the world?!
In all honesty, the possibilities for collaboration become endless and easily facilitated through a unified organization.
I’ll end with this — unification of the SCAA and SCAE isn’t about money or power, it is about representation and advocacy for the specialty coffee industry on a scale which has never before existed. The possibilities that come out of a unified organization are truly amazing. A vibrant, diverse, and extensive community. Education that expands beyond borders. And collaboration on a global scale. For me, any negatives that could arise from unification are substantially outweighed by these prospects.