In 2010, we approached the SCAA with a proposal to bring the U.S. regional champion baristas to visit a coffee-producing country. This was a new idea--connecting some of the most passionate coffee professionals with the producers who grow the thing they work with every day. This proposal was the beginning of what is now known as the "Origin Trip Sponsorship." This sponsorship category didn't exist prior. It was met with an unbelievable amount of enthusiasm from the community, and it brought a new stream of revenue to the USBC.
Now, five years later, we've traveled the world with some of the most dedicated, passionate, and inspiring coffee professionals in our industry. We've been to Brasil, Costa Rica, Kenya, Ecuador, and Colombia. These champion baristas have given more to the coffee farmers and baristas in these countries than they even know. They've helped support a movement toward quality and inspired huge global advancements for specialty coffee on these trips. We are so honored to have been even a small part in this and sinerely thank the SCAA/BGA for helping to make this happen.
One of the main reasons we first submitted this proposal was the inclusive nature of the regional competition process, and the long-term vision of these amazing baristas taking the knowledge and insight gained through travel in a coffee-producing country back to their communities, spread out across the entire country. We loved that idea that someone from a small town who cared deeply about coffee could dedicate themselves and, through hard work, earn a spot on the trip--and become an even more capable ambassador to specialty coffee than they were before in their home towns.
Unfortunately, due to myriad financial and logistical concerns on behalf of the SCAA and BGA, the regional competition structure has changed this year, and we do not believe that the new structure proposed to take its place--a single qualifying event held prior to the U.S. Barista Championship--will serve the same inclusive mission that the regional events we first agreed to sponsored did. While we fully believe that the SCAA and BGA leaders will work to meet the needs and fulfill the desires of those baristas who continue to long and strive for their moment in the competition spotlight, at the present time, Café Imports would rather devote its resources toward creating a series of regional educational and enrichment events designed to encourage professional development and community, just as the regional barista competitions have in the past.
While this proposed single qualifying event is a step in the right direction, we feel strongly that holding only one event still limits the accessibility of competitions for those baristas and coffee professionals who may not have the means to travel across the country to participate. The distance and increased costs will undoubtedly limit access to the competition experience for hundreds of people who would have otherwise competed this year.
Some of our industry's most influential leaders began by entering into a competition they knew little about, because they wanted to be a part of the energy and momentum present at the local events in their communities.
For this reason, we at Café Imports cannot in good conscience continue to sponsor an experience (the barista origin trip) that was intended to benefit our industry on a local grassroots level, while ignoring the vacuum that the regional events' absence creates across our country.
So, what is our plan now?
Café Imports is committed to supporting the baristas at the front lines of our industry, the people who shake hands with customers and humbly serve a beautiful product that so many worked so hard to prepare. We are proud to announce that, in place of the Barista Origin Trip sponsorship in 2016, we will allocate those funds toward hosting three free regional educational events in the US designed to empower and engage coffee communities across the United States, entitled the "Legendary Coffee Producer Tour".
We will be bringing 6 coffee producers from around the world to 3 US cities to engage and share information freely with the local coffee communities. During these day-long events, we will be offering free classes on agronomy, coffee processing, cupping, flavor, and other areas of coffee science in which this group are experts. We will be bringing along some of our most important coffee-producing partners, to allow them to share their experience and, in a sense, bring origin to you and your community. They are very excited about this opportunity to engage with you.
We are proud to announce that our guests/speakers for this February 2016 are:
Jairo Ruiz and Elkin Guzman - Banexport, Colombia
Jacques Carniero - Carmo Coffees, Brasil
Oscar and Francisca Chacon - Finca Las Lajas, Costa Rica
Juan Jose Moguel - Finca Nueva Linda, Mexico
We sincerely hope this isn't the end of the Barista Origin Trip, and we believe our industry leaders will be able to figure out a way to bring back the inclusive nature of competitions and regional events, something we all loved, and will remember fondly forever.
Stay tuned for more information about the Legendary Coffee Producer Tour stopping in a city near you! In order to ensure your spot to attend, please RSVP to LCPT@cafeimports.com or on the corresponding facebook event for each city (links below)!