By Dave Merkin, CTG Working Group
November 3, 2016 was an amazing day. It was on this day that 52 coffee technicians descended on a small business in Kansas City, Missouri to make history. For the first time, a guild was created by and for coffee technicians, and the first event—The Coffee Technicians Guild Inaugural Planning Summit—kicked off. The Coffee Technicians Guild (CTG) is a newly formed guild of the SCAA with the mission of promoting excellence in equipment service and developing qualified technicians through advocacy, education, and networking. The monumental undertaking of this Summit was to answer the question: What is a coffee technician? We also wanted to provide an opportunity for attendees to identify and network with other coffee technicians. And, of course, we wanted to eat some great Kansas City BBQ. I am happy to report that on all counts, the mission was accomplished.
The technicians were given the opportunity to take some of the core SCAA Pathways classes. The SCAA Instructor Development Program (IDP), taught by Ildi Revi, gave the technicians tools they need to take the lessons the Guild will develop and teach others. This class was fun, informative, and full of engagement and lively discussion. The Technicians had a great time.
Next, the technicians attended Brewing and Extraction Principles. While very skilled in brewing and machine function, the Technicians had the chance to understand the SCAA brewing principals and some of the science behind the standards.
Next was the Intro to Cupping class. An important note: out of the 52 technicians, most with over a decade in the industry, less than ten had ever cupped coffee. This is an important gap that we as an industry need to close. The class had six flights of coffee provided by Kaldi's. The class was instructed by Tyler Duncan of Topeca Coffee, who did a stellar job leading the technicians through the finer points of tasting smelling and slurping.
One of the very important points of the Coffee Technicians Guild Summit was to set educational standards. Coffee technicians are unique, but what is a coffee technician? Attendees of the summit broke up into groups and tackled the monumental task of answering that question. Nearly a full day was spent breaking down all the finer points of what a coffee technician should know, from plumbing to electrical, espresso extraction to milk steaming. The work of the group of professional technicians was amazing. This information will set into motion an education set that will train the next generation of coffee technicians.
The summit was not all classes though, the technicians had time for some fun team challenges. One was the "Steam Valve Challenge," in which the teams selected three members to assemble espresso machine steam valves from a pile of parts while racing against the clock. Some of the SCAA staff even got in on the fun. Next was the "Fix It Challenge." Four espresso machines provided by Rancilio North America were deliberately sabotaged by the CTG leadership. Teams had 15 minutes to diagnose and correct five problems in a ‘real life’ scenario. The teams did great, and by sticking to the fundamentals of machine repair, they were able to solve the problems a team.
Team 5 came out on top, and won hand made trophies that were assembled during the summit.
Saturday night was a fun trip to the Novus Escape Room, sponsored by Texas Coffee Traders, where attendees had to team up with eight other technicians to figure out how to get out of a room, armed only with their problem solving skills and teamwork!
This was followed by a meat-filled dinner at the Brazilian restaurant Fogo de Chao, sponsored by Pacific Espresso.
I have watched this Guild grow from concept to reality. You know that weird feeling when you see something for the first time, after thinking about it for so long? Disbelief, happiness, a little bit of anxiety? For months, the leadership of the CTG collaborated, brainstormed, and put in long hours towards this event. It was surreal to see all that planning come together with the help of the SCAA staff, to see our logo on merchandise, and to see techs from all over the world showing up to help give the Coffee Technicians Guild a future.
The Coffee Technicians Guild would like to thank our Founding Sponsors, Rancilio, Nuova Ricambi, Espresso Partners, La Marzocco, and Curtis. Their support has boosted confidence in the guild and the industry as a whole. We appreciate them greatly. We also have many event sponsors to thank for the success of our first summit: Pacific Espresso, Royal Cup Coffee, Espresso Parts, Texas Coffee Traders, and Kaldi's Coffee Co.
So, that's where we are. We have standards. A foundation. Camaraderie. But it does not end here. This is just a beginning. Our vision is to be the global voice for the coffee technician community. This group believed enough to travel from all over the world and set a foundation. We have created a place to go for support, for fellowship, and a way to bring the respect so needed to the career of coffee technicians everywhere. We will be there for the specialty coffee industry in the future, from wrench to cup!