Today some news hit the specialty coffee industry that had a lot of coffee professionals talking: The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) announced an end to regional barista competitions. Atlanta hosted the Southeast Regional Barista Competition for several years, and it was always exciting to see all the competitors, volunteers and spectators come together for a really fun event. I even wrote about the SERBC in Taproom's business plan, hoping to send a few baristas to the competition once we got well-established.
It's a total coincidence that just a couple days ago, I planned and announced an upcoming barista competition skills-building event at Taproom. I wanted to start this series of events because I'm excited about how the specialty coffee community in Atlanta has been revitalized in the last couple years. After what seemed like a long season of stagnant growth and not many new entrants into the market (and even some prominent closings), we're now starting to see lots of new shops start up, larger coffee companies choosing Atlanta for new locations, and a consistently active barista community (at least at every Thursday Night Throwdown). I thought in light of all that, we could possibly benefit from an additional professional pow-wow where we can build into the community and hone our barista skills, possibly in preparation for industry competitions. There's some great professional training already in Atlanta, but most of it is done in-house within companies or roasters, and is not accessible to the random barista from an independent shop not affiliated with another well-resourced company. Our skills-building events at Taproom would potentially have a more inclusive approach to the barista community.
While it's sad to hear news of the cancellation of the regional competition events (and, indeed, Taproom and other small coffee companies or shops may not as easily send anyone to barista competition events from now on), I still think the Atlanta barista community will continue to grow and benefit from events like the one we'll have here in July. One of my larger hopes is that we can collectively elevate the position of barista to one that has more merit as a sustainable career. When it comes down to it, I'm pretty much a barista for life. The more we can support professional knowledge, skills building, and competitive industry events, the more likely this is a sustainable career for anyone who wants to pursue it.