With Barista Camp having come and gone (and it was great!), it feels like the recent BGA elections are a distant memory. Yet your four newly-elected Executive Council Members have only just begun their two-year term in service of our amazing barista community. With a month or so under their belts, it seems like a good time for Five Questions to find out who they are, what they hope to accomplish, and why they value the BGA.
Miguel Vicuna recently opened and operates Metropolis Coffee Lohi near Denver, CO. Since there are only so many barista competitions to judge, Miguel is active in the SCAA, the Rocky Mountain Craft Coffee Alliance, and the BGA Education Committee. Needless to say, Miguel brings a ton of energy, experience, and some legit buffness to the Council.
Laila Ghambari resides in Seattle, WA and is the Director of Education for Caffe Ladro. During her time as Northwest Chapter Representative, she raised the bar on what a CR meant to their region and appears ready to do the same on the Executive Council. Have you seen Sprudge's barista competition pop-up video she starred in? Awesome is the word.
Alexandra Littlejohn proudly represents Verve Coffee Roasters as their Business Development Manager and Sticker Bomber for Southern California. As a Level 2 Certified Barista, SCAA Lead Instructor, and fourteen year coffee veteran, she owns some serious chops. After seeing her teach at Barista Camp, I can honestly say that you are missing out if you haven't taken a class with her.
Cole McBride helps keep Seattle's coffee scene strong, whether he's crafting beautiful drinks or working with Visions Espresso Services. With eleven years of experience under his belt, Cole is no newbie to Specialty coffee, yet his curiosity and obviously passion for growing as a professional makes him one of the most exciting folks in our industry.
Michael Harwood Congratulations on your recent election to the Barista Guild of America Executive Council. For all our readers out there, what does an Executive Councilperson do?
Miguel Vicuna Thanks! It's really exciting to be giving back to the BGA on this level.
Being on the Executive Council is all about committing to being extremely involved. We have monthly conference calls, 3 subcommittees that drive the a lot of the BGA Events and committing to being present at these events. Also, introducing the BGA to every shop, barista we talk to and being open to answering a lot of questions.
Laila Ghambari The EC builds and executes material from 3 different committees: Professional Development (education), Events, and Membership. Since I sit on the events committee I work on things like Camp and Barista Competitions. We brainstorm and have meeting after meeting trying to make sure these events are successful and worthwhile to members.
Alexandra Littlejohn As an executive councilperson we are required to serve on at least one of the many BGA subcommittees, such as; events, education, membership etc. I am currently the Vice Chair for our Membership committee, what that entails is a whole lot of phone calls and brainstorming on how to better reach our members. We have an EC call once per month, each committee has a phone call once per month and then we also will interact with each other (the EC or Chair and Vice Chair of the subcommittees) at least every week. Some of the topics discussed on these phone calls are the following: reaching members and getting them more involved, how to host more/better events, how to make classes and certifications more accessible, planning camps, reworking and always improving the education programs/classes/lectures, etc. One thing that is important for BGA members to remember is that the BGA is NOT totally autonomous from the SCAA; what that means is that we can't really do a whole lot without their approval, chew on that for a few minutes. Know that we are always working with the SCAA staff to meet your needs and make things better. BGA members should also know that BGA EC are all unpaid volunteers and that we sit on this council because we want baristas everywhere to feel empowered, professional and supported, but we need to know what you want, so we can better serve members! Reach out to us. The EC also meets in person twice per year, once right after the SCAA Expo and once mid-year at locations that are determined the previous year at Expo. Personally, I think I probably spend at least an extra 10-20 hours per week on BGA related projects, on top of working full time, but I love it!
Cole McBride An executive councilperson oversees the BGA membership and are the go folks when you have questions. We are here to answer any and all questions to the best of our ability. We volunteer at Barista Camp and at other SCAA and BGA events. We are always looking for new and exciting ways to engage with members.
MH What would you like to see the BGA accomplish during your two-year term?
MV I would really like to establish more independent certification events outside of Camp and Expo. We have so many baristas that are ready for Level 1 but can not make these events. The Mountain Region really comes to mind, it has been booming with more Specialty coffee and I would really like to bring something to them.
LG I want to see more ways for members to learn and build community. We have Camp and Expo that are huge events for people to get those things but I want to see smaller things, in more areas, that offer that same opportunity. This is definitely something I know the EC is working on, but I think this is an area where members need to get things rolling. I can't wait 'til there are events happening every month, all over the US, where members are working together to create something awesome. Essentially giving members the tools and support they need to empower them to do things on their own.
AL Personally, I would like to see the BGA set in place a plan of action for our members to form their own regional subcommittees and eventually have those subcommittees be able to bid for classes, camps and workshops to come to their area. I would also like to see our membership grow, have formats for more education based event available for members (like formats for a brew together, or tasting event, or lectures, etc.) Selfishly, I would also like to see BGA and The Roasters Guild co-host some events together as well, which is an idea from my good friend Joe Morocco.
CM I would like to see the BGA work closer with The Roasters Guild. I also hope to seeing educational offerings outside of SCAA and Barista Camp. More members getting involved and hosting MDEs (Member Driven Events) would also be great.
MH What would you say to someone considering the value of BGA membership?
MV It's all about what "you" put into it. There is so much space to grow in the BGA. I started off taking classes honing in my skills and now I am fortunate enough to teach these classes to others, and it has been a really awesome journey.
LG The BGA has a lot of different things to offer to different people. I would start by asking what they would want to get out of being a BGA member. The education program is amazing if you're someone that wants to learn and get certifications. The community you build is huge if you're someone who wants to network and get to know people. We have such a huge pool of resources that chances are we can help you out with just about anything someone is looking for.
AL I would first ask them, "Are you always looking to learn MORE about coffee?" Inevitably they say, "yes! of course", then I would start to tell them about the incredible resource library on the SCAA website, that ALL BGA members have access to. Just think about it, for $45 dollars per year, you have access to ALL the resources the SCAA has in their library. Most books that are published there for free, would normally cost at least $45 dollars, sometimes more! So, for $45 per year, there is tremendous monetary value, simply in the resource library. Also, if anyone out there is planning on competing or attending any SCAA events, there is a huge discount for BGA members. Next, I would tell them how I have met some of my best friends through the BGA and coffee related events. The community and network of professionals that you'll meet is absolutely priceless. Not to mention, that there is a sense of pride that comes along with being a BGA member; a feeling of belonging and validation of being a craftsman. Lastly, I would let this potential new member know that if they don't already have health insurance, that they can apply for it at a discounted rate by being a BGA member. Amazing!
CM I find so much value in being a member through meeting and becoming connected to other members. I've meet some of the most amazing coffee pros through the BGA.
MH Please describe a favorite moment you had with the BGA.
MV Seeing BGA members meet on an international level. I met some really great people in Dubai, and eight months later fellow EC member Laila Ghambari met up with a really great barista in Iran on a cafe tour, Mohammad Khani, who was taking classes in Dubai. Having mutual friends around the world makes it such an open and friendly community.
LG My time as a Chapter Rep in the NW was really exciting for me. I had a chance to interact with a huge group of people in my region. The e-mails I would get from people looking for advice or help and then being able to connect them to another member that could help them always felt really gratifying and helped me see the huge value of being a BGA member.
AL Wow, this is a really hard question, there are just SO many. I think it would have to be my first year at camp. Meeting people I had only read about or seen at larger events, team challenges, etc. Before camp, there wasn't really a great way for me as a barista to interact with peers from all over the country, that wasn't USBC or Expo, so this was incredible. The exact moment was probably when I was having a conversation with Lorenzo Perkins, Dan Streetman, as well as a few other "coffeelebrities" that I had admired SO much, and I realized that I DO know a lot about coffee and that I was finally in a place that encouraged that! A group of peers that would get my coffee jokes, understand my frustration with restaurant coffee and indulge my curiosities of particle sizes, etc.
CM My favorite moment in the BGA would be my first year at camp. I was not sure how much I would like and it turned out to change the way I think about teaching and training.
MH What is one thing that makes you really happy when you're at a cafe as a customer?
MV Seeing the person in front and behind me getting stellar customer service. A lot of times, shops really chat me up and I have a wonderful experience but to see it happen to everyone really makes me happy. That and tasty bevs with hot tops.
LG I love walking into a café that feels good (bright, clean, music) and getting service and a product that matches. I want an experience that makes me want to keep coming back. I work with good coffee everyday, when I go to a coffee shop I'm looking for something more than just coffee.
AL It makes me really happy when the baristas are outstanding at customer service and are knowledgeable about the coffee they are brewing. Mostly, just that they know about the coffee and are passionate about what they do! It's also a BIG plus if the cafe that I'm in gives a BGA discount and are member of the SCAA! It shows commitment to quality and passion for the industry!
CM It makes me really happy to be greeted with eye contact and a smile. Also I appreciate a clean bar.MH Now you know your newly-elected Executive Council a little bit better. They are here for you, so don't hesitate to say hello!