Making a Difference…
Each July issue of Coffee Talk is dedicated to highlighting organizations working within our industry to ensure coffee’s future. Some might think dedicating an entire magazine to promoting non and not for profit efforts is a questionable business decision, but for the staff of CT we believe it is one way we can make a difference.
As you read this month’s magazine and learn about the featured organizations and their contributions to coffee security for our future please consider getting involved. Be it donating time, money, goods or simply spreading the word that will make a difference for these organizations.
Each featured organization has a unique focus to contributing solutions to the complexity of coffee security. Projects are clearly defined as to scope, impact and needed support. You can help change the lives of the many hands that impact the production of our coffee by getting involved. You will make a difference!
Speaking of getting involved…
This year the specialty coffee industry is facing other potential changes. This month SCAA membership is being asked to vote to merge with SCAE, the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe.
SCAA is asking you, the members of the organization, to vote on crafting a new organization. The campaigning process has been at times ruthless. Why? One of our country’s core values is Freedom of Speech not freedom to bully. Personal affronts must stop. Both sides of the fence deserve an opportunity to respectfully present their ideas. This vote significantly impacts our future organization structure and scope.
I have received calls from people asking me if there is a generational fight going on within the SCAA. The answer is, I don’t know. I do know that a small group of people including our Past President has written for and against Unification.
What are the facts that we know for sure?
- The voting will take place between July 5 and August 5, 2016
- Traditionally, voter turn out for SCAA elections is very low
- You need to be an informed voter
- You need to VOTE
To move the discussion out of the personal arena and into one central location of information sharing CoffeeTalk has created this page as an unbiased forum for members to respectfully challenge each other’s ideas and explore the future of SCAA.
[accordion title=’Steven Lee | 08/03/2016 | For Unification’]
I support unification for a number of reasons. Unification brings together a real recognition of global coffee standards that can be interpreted and understood by all for the betterment of the industry at large. Unification also pools our resources: providing collaborative opportunities to conduct research and seek solutions to global coffee issues….because coffee is a global product. Unification is a way to ensure sustainability, relevance and forward movement by working together and cooperation. Some of the plans under unification are already in place: regional roasters groups, international campuses, collective research….let’s make this official by voting to support SCAA/SCAE Unification.
Steve Lee RGEC
[accordion title=’Mary Tellie | 08/03/2016 | For Unification’]
I strongly support the SCAA-SCAE unification as it will strengthen the global voice of the small specialty coffee roasting community.
[accordion title=’Joe Marrocco | 08/03/2016 | For Unification’]
A couple of things to keep in mind:
1) Unification > Division
2) This is an industry decision, not a political one. Convolution of global politics into our decisions lead to poor decision making. This is not a political decision. This is not a liberal vs. conservative debate.
3) We are already a global organization. This allows us to be more stream lined, and instead of two organizations doing the same work, we can join forces and eliminate redundancies, while focusing like a laser on moving our industry forward.
4) Research is better done collaboratively.
5) Events are better done collaboratively.
6) The Guilds are already global and will move forward as such.
7) Education is aligning and will move forward as such.
8) It is a better move for the local company to be a part of a global organization, as their voice is not weakened, but now carries to far more people.
The choice is clear: Unification or Division. Which side are you on?
[accordion title=’Paul Katzeff | 08/02/2016 | Against Unification’]
Why I am against the Merger By Paul Katzeff AN ENGINE FOR CHANGE It was the American creativity back in 1980 that began to organize the fight for Flavor in Coffee. It was a small band of roasters, or better put, a band of small roasters, that understood that there was a craft waiting to happen and a Coffee revolution licking at their minds. I remember late night meetings in Washington DC in 1981 to form a new coffee association when for 500 years the Establishment had controlled the flow of coffee, its price and its flavor. To separate from this history was such a radical idea at that moment in time.
White, privileged, and from the Northern Hemisphere, men had created an industry that impoverished 25 million people at the expense of creating great wealth for the few, while farmers had no say and were basically enslaved in a system that transferred the wealth of their labor into riches for the coffee barons of the North.This Oligarchy had power unlike any of us organizers was comfortable with. I know I for one was scared and our organizing meetings were fraught with anxiety. We literally believed we could be killed for what we were organizing; a new way to think about coffee, and that new way was to separate the good coffee from the ordinary. Certainly a departure that was dangerous. Power is not given, it has to be taken. We were certainly a threat and although my fears were overamped, the establishment came with $50,000 to help us see a different path forward. They tried to co-pt us and in a 13-12 vote of the Charter Member businesses we voted to risk independence. (1985) and for The SCAA there was no turning back.
We created an organization Constitution and a system of ByLaws that was based on our understanding of our unique Democracy as Americans growing up in it. The SCAA was formed to reflect our group consciousness. These American businessmen went on to build an organization that would lead the world of coffee into the amazing craft it has become today. My own motivation for being there was not so idealistic. I had little empathy for the coffee farmers and truth be told, I had never seen a coffee tree or its tender in its home environment. To me, the coffee farmer was the enemy. Buy the best at the lowest price was the goal. I did not know how I was impacting family life in Coffee-lands. I was ignorant but I like thousands of others who followed me into the SCAA,, I was exposed to a greater education then I expected and became more caring for my farmers friends, and over time, Kindness spread through the Trade. But I digress.
My reason for wanting a Trade Association came from a much simpler motivation. I live and work in California’s Premier Wine Country and my peers, cellar masters and vineyard masters were going to State and County fairs and winning Blue Ribbons, Best in Shows, and scores for quality. I was producing coffees that were just as good but there were no coffee contests for me to win a ribbon for as a craftsman. A Trade Association could change that I believed. (Thank you Coffee Review) In 1983 we received our Charter. There were 25 Charter Companies that began the SCAA. They were an unregulated group of roasters who tried out ideas that finally brought sophistication to coffee. Roast colors, origin designations, cupping labs at origin, sustainability, Organic farming, Fair Trade, certifications, new methods of brewing, Latte art, Starbucks, Barista and Roaster Guilds, The Flavor wheel, and you can name many more. None of these innovations and added sophistications came from Europe or anywhere else. They came from American Craftsmen and we shared our knowledge in a way that enabled other countries to form their own SCA’s and find their own creative coffee ideas that related to their own cultures.
The United States joined the United Nations, we did not become one! And through these sister organizations we spread the idea that quality of life and quality of coffee went hand in hand. The truth spreads easily when it is solving a problem. We invited Producers in to learn about us and what we were doing with their coffee. We began to travel to origin and learn from Producers and we began to be able to pay higher and higher prices as each craft company reached for higher plateaus of flavor.And coffee farmers began to think quality too. They became as sophisticated on their end as we became on our side. Flavor became the competitive advantage so Roasters began to put their minds to creating better brewing, better roasting and better buying. That was American, and it was the best of American ingenuity. It was not the Europeans. They followed our lead. We helped them create the SCAE. We reached out to Producers, saw them as partners to be respected, and we led the producers into an industry that they had been excluded from by an Anglo axis of Europeans and Americans for centuries. The SCAA and the businesses it led, changed the course of a 500 year old intrenched,unconscious, uncaring multi national network of rich men and lousy tasting coffee into the caring trade that it is today.
We did it with the help of thousands of small American family run businesses who’s values we reflected as Board Members of the SCAA. We created an organization that builds upon American Creative Business Spirit, that competes for continual betterment, and openly shares, educates and trades, with a level of transparency and honor that is exemplary. It was the Specialty Coffee businesses that inspired the Craft Beer Industry, and perhaps every other food and beverage to become craft oriented. Certainly the Farm to Table movement was informed by our work. We became the perfect industry for the Millennial Generation to adopt as their own. We were there for them when they finally came of age.
The membership of our two guilds attests to the success of our SCAA as a vibrant engine for growth and development for newly interested young people who see specialty coffee as a career path. It is with these ideas in mind that I am proud to say I was a founder and that my work volunteering was one of the greatest gifts I gave to myself. If such a success as the SCAA is destroyed by a merger with another organization that has added so little to the march of the last 30 years of coffee history, I have to ask myself, why, when the results have been so spectacular, when our organization has been so inclusive, and so activist in its fight for quality of life for all in the trade, when young people dominate the employee base and see careers within the trade, when we are leaders in ethical business issues, and when we have so much more to do in our own Hemisphere, I ask why go down a route that will dilute our Creative Engine. This SCAA is local to us. Yes, the world has Skype and e mail and websites it did not have when we started up the Engine, but will those digital tools screw up this fabulous people in your face, network?
This network we call the SCAA was created step by step over the course of three decades. Will it lose its local relevance as it begins to figure out if Bigger is Better? What happened to “small is beautiful”, or “think Global, act local”. I have no doubt there are people on the SCAA Board today that believe this merger is a good idea. But for whom? Where did this idea originate. Certainly not from a groundswell of the Members who vote. This is a top down idea. It fulfills no real need and it destroys something that is working, really kicking ass working, and something with the chance to become even better for the members who form its core (small family run businesses). Had the Merger been with the SCA of Mexico or Ethiopia or Peru or Nicaragua, I would be out there rooting for Merger. What an Adventure that would be for all, with benefits that are beyond my current imagination. But the Merger proposed, is “back to the future”. A consolidation of the Demand Side Anglo’s.
What will this look like to Producer organizations? I ask you to vote no. Keep the Board focussed on American coffee businesses, their employees and their creativity. The organizing effort we all put time into needs to be preserved so future generations of American coffee businesses can benefit from the security of knowing there is an anchor they can depend on, one that is eminently accessible, and one which we can continue to be a proud of. This Association is not theirs, it is ours. Don’t kill the creative engine.
[accordion title=’Marty Curtis | 08/02/2016 | Against Unification’]
Hello Coffee Colleagues & Friends I’m asking you to vote NO for unification. And here is three simple reason
1. We the SCAA leadership is not ready to lead a global organization. We are not even able to have an open and honest debate about unification. They have denied paying members to voice their perspectives on our own web site. Unless it is positive for the unification. WHY
2. Everything they have promised we are currently doing as the we move for forward example. Quote: Hey Coffee Industry and Roasters Guild friends. The Roasters Guild just introduced a Regional Roasting Group Registration Form. If you participate in one, register! SCAA has designated some funds to support some of your events. Quote: Extend Your Coffee Education with SCAA Campuses Campuses are located globally with more =being added every year. Our goal is to build an international educational network where coffee professionals around the world san have access to SCAA Pathway courses and the ability to pursue their dreams of a career in specialty coffee So you see some of the very things they promise once we unification takes place is already happening.
3. One vote one person this can be done under the current SCAA with just a bylaw change. So in closing I just got an email by the BOD where some of them made signs about the vote, one caught my eye Quote: Over the past 2 years wave been exploring the ideal of merger with SCAE. But to be honest the first time this was even mention any group outside the BOD or Staff was at SLS June 25 2015 than again in at Conference 2016 town hall meeting for 1 ½ hours and then again at SLS June this year. But no information was written down till Nov 15 2015 on SCAA web site. No Pro forma was even available till less than 30 days of voting. I have asked several times to form a committee of general member’s but was given an answer and at no time have they asked to form a committee of our general members to give feedback one way or another this was all done in the BOD and staff. Again WHY. Imagine a Global organization that you have a vote in, which will not allow you equal representation or due process well its happening if we vote YES. As we are now seeing how they are going to run a Global Organization. No Equal representation and we will have to do what the BOD and Staff wants. I’m sure the ED will say well it was not me that said only positive perspectives will be allowed on our member’s web which is bought and paid by each and every one of us. But there is where one of the problems lie is a real leader would say hold on here we are a member organization and all need to be heard and given equal representation About half SCAA past Presidents also are asking for a NO PLEASE VOTE NO TILL WE GET LEADERS WHO UNDERSTAND HOW TO LEAD AND NOT BE JUST FOLLOWER. Which means they will need to here and let both for an against a subject be heard on equal grounds. This has not happened in this semi process or whatever they call this thing
#SCAA #UNIFICATION #SCAAUNICATION #SCAAMERGER
[accordion title=’Joe Marrocco | 08/01/2016 | For Unification’]
I am for unification for so many reason. Reach out for discussion!
[accordion title=’Steven Olock | 07/27/2016 | Against Unification’]
Too many unanswered questions to take such a potentially debilitating step. More Information, More challenging questions to answer, More transparency needed.
[accordion title=’Peter Giuliano | 07/26/2016 | For Unification’]
I just returned from Ireland, after having spent a week at Re:co Symposium and World of Coffee in Dublin. There was something personal about this trip for me: I began playing Irish music at 18, the same year I began working in coffee. This week, I finally got to play Irish music in Ireland. But it’s not due to my musicianship- it’s because coffee brought us here. We all know this to be true: coffee has a power to bring people together, whether friends in the café, or baristas working together, or coffee professionals connecting internationally.
On my very first day at World of Coffee Dublin I ran into Marysabel and Moises Caballero, a coffee family from Honduras who are dear to my heart; A. Syafrudin, my favorite Indonesian traveling companion and chairperson of the Specialty Coffee Association of Indonesia; and Klaus Thomsen, esteemed former World Barista champ and leader at Coffee Collective in Copenhagen. These are only three of the many people who have made my coffee life richer, and my career more successful. And, many times, when I would run into one of these coffee people in Dublin, they would ask, “What about Unification? Is it going to happen? Will the Americans vote yes?” I told them, “I hope so.” Here is why. Specialty coffee relies on a huge network of people throughout the world who share common ideas about coffee. Though part of the beauty of coffee culture is its diversity (say, the difference between Scandinavian coffee style and San Franciscan), we must share some common ideas about quality, sustainability, and values if we want specialty coffee to survive in the world.
This is what good trade associations like ours do; define certain things to make trade easier, quality more achievable, and prosperity for the entire chain more possible. Fragmentation of this network inevitably brings with it confusion and dysfunction; a shared identity will allow us to focus on what we want to achieve- to express the beautiful diversity of the coffee trade- rather than have different Specialty Coffee Associations quibbling and competing. The boards of the SCAE and SCAA have committed to this vision- a shared global specialty coffee identity- and each has brought their organization to the table. The SCAE side has voted, and they are in. Will we as the SCAA do the same? While in Dublin this year, I spent most of my time meeting with members of the Research Committee of the SCAE, who have been formally organized for the past two years.
I discovered that these coffee researchers have been busy, doing studies at University of Zurich and University of Copenhagen, on roasting, and taste perception, and water, and sensory science. I was able to share with them the work SCAA has done recently in collaboration with World Coffee Research. It was instantly obvious- when we unify, these become shared resources, available to our members as if we have always been together. This is amazing, valuable information, much of which I didn’t even know existed a few weeks ago. The SCAE has built a community of smart people who are doing great things, and with a perspective that’s different from those in the states. The power of bringing these resources together- both people and information- is breathtaking. And when this happens, the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. I can’t wait to explore coffee ideas with these folks.
But probably the biggest reason we should get together is because we have to. Specialty coffee is threatened by climate change, disease, economic dysfunction, and genetic narrowness. We must use the strength of our community to effect change if there is any hope of saving the product we love, and that we have built our businesses on. A global association advocating for specialty coffee is absolutely critical if we want to get the attention of the global economic community. This isn’t an option anymore; we must get together if we want our industry- dedicated to the idea that coffee can be special- to survive. This affects large businesses and small, baristas and roasters, cuppers and producers. We simply have to join together, or watch our industry wither.
I remember back to the time when we were creating the Roasters Guild, I was on the first leadership group in that organization and we were writing the bylaws for the guild. I remember that we were discussing whether we should call it the Roasters Guild of America. We decided not to, simply because we wanted to express the idea that solidarity among roasters is international, and that a commitment to great coffee transcends national identities. We couldn’t make that international approach a reality in those days- we lacked the global connections and momentum to make it happen.
Right now, we have the opportunity to make that dream a reality. I hope we do, anyway. If you’re a voting member of SCAA, I urge you to vote ‘yes’ to unification. If you work for a member company, but you don’t cast the vote for the company, please seek that person out, make sure they are voting, and tell them how you feel about it. We’ve seen just how a country who chooses to disunify can create chaos and problems. I’m counting on the specialty coffee community to chose differently, and show that we’re committed to working together. Thanks for reading and voting.
Founding Roasters Guild Member, Chair 2004
SCAA President 2010-2011 Senior Director, SCAA
[accordion title=’Marty Curtis | 07/26/2016 | Against Unification’]
Dear SCAA Colleagues, Today I want to give you pause and even challenge you to look beyond the surface of things as they appear. I’ve been re-visiting the SCAA unification and want to communicate some additional points as you contemplate your vote. I urge you to vote “NO” at this time. Previously, I pointed to issues related to the BREXIT vote and the inevitable, but still murky effects yet to revealed. Events of this nature don’t occur very often and as such there is not a historical record that guides us in what to expect. The relative unknown is one of the most difficult things for humans to deal with, as our need to feel secure is challenged.
In California Non-Profit Law, there is a requirement that some form of prior notice is always required for board meetings outside of regularly scheduled meetings published in advance. Why? It’s basis comes from the principles of “Corporate Democracy” and “Due Process”. This prevents a board from holding a meeting in secret, with a select majority and thereby excluding opposing views that could influence other directors in their decisions. Now I am not, in any way saying the SCAA Board is doing this, I only bring up this to illustrate a point that should give you pause, “Equal Representation”. The SCAA Unification website is funded by all members, yet only “Pro Unification Views” are allowed.
No matter your view on SCAA Unification, as a member, do you support this lack of “Equal Representation”? I for one do not, and that is why I asked the Board to allow opposing views, as the principles of “Democracy” and “Due Process” should be equally as important to the SCAA Board as it should be to the members it represents. Even if you support the unification, even if you think it is a good idea, even if you think things will just work out, none of us should give up our right for “Equal Representation” and our expectation for leadership to equally serve it’s members. We already have a strong Global reach with our extensive partnerships around the world. Having a Global reach is not the same as going Global. This is uncharted territory for leadership. It requires not only a unique skillset by leadership to support the global scale and diversity of operations needed, it also requires a comprehensive risk-management plan in place.
Has anyone reading this, seen a comprehensive risk-management plan and/or an exit plan, in case the strategic plan put forward by the SCAA Board doesn’t pan out? Experts who study and advise on mergers are adamant about the role transparency and steady, consistent communication from leadership plays in the success of a merger. Allowing people to be heard, addressing their concerns respectfully and providing a constructive channel to communicate their questions, issues and concerns, this is a key tenet to success. Do you feel leadership has done all they need to ensure this? Staff anxiety will ramp up as they are most affected by day-to-day change. How long will it take the staff of such a merger to blend comfortably? Three years or more according to some experts and that’s usually after they have been challenged with working through a crisis. Does the leadership have a plan to mitigate these potential problems?
SCAA members, we do not have to put the future of our organization at risk in a European merger today. Now is the time for the Board to shore up SCAA finances and ensure SCAA remains a strong, secure U.S. Based-Global Trade organization as we have been. There are times in life when caution is appropriate and I believe this is one of those times. If we vote NO to the merger, then we have the opportunity to study it further – why the big rush to vote now? I love our Specialty Coffee Association of America and I am proud of the 24 years of service I have committed. Fellow SCAA members, at this time, I hope you will exercise your right to vote and I urge you to vote NO to “Unification” to ” Preserve and Protect ” our beloved U.S.Based-Global SCAA.
Marty G. Curtis
PAST SCAA Board Member 2008-2012
[accordion title=’Marty Curtis | 07/25/2016 | Against Unification’]
SCAA Collegues, I have asked the SCAA to allow dissenting opinions to be posted to the Perspectives section of the SCAA Unification website, so members will be exposed to all views.
This is their response. The SCAA through EC has accused me of: “We are not posting misleading and false information on the site. Also, attempting to scare members with hyperbole is not the way to achieve a democratic vote if that is truly what you aim to achieve. There is content about risks and benefits of a merger and I am very confident our members will be able to make an informed decision.”
Yet, The SCAA statement: “SCAA continues on the current unification trajectory. While analyzing the detail of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, we are confident the effect will be negligible as our membership and revenue are global.” is not only misleading, it shows how they out of touch they are, when not a single economist or financial organization in the world would think, much less post such a uneducated statement.
I can only come to one conclusion and that is “This statement is meant to redirect members attention away from thinking about the unknown consequences yet to come” That is hyperbole masked. Here is a much more realistic view from a top economist: We must face the fact that we are in a slowing global economy and governments simply have their fingers crossed in hopes this nightmare just corrects itself. There is a massive slowing of real income in Europe and the OECD has commented that this is creating a serious political problem for governments moving forward. Central banks cannot stimulate, because at the same time, we face a major crisis in government where their pensions are crowding out all private sector growth.
The aftereffects of BREXIT, the USA presidential election, and the elections in France and then Germany, are just the tip of the Iceberg, so to speak, because we face a future that is anything but stable. Interestingly, now six countries are looking at potential referendums in addition to the potential resurrection of Scottish independence as well as Ireland. The response of Brussels has been to usher in revisions to cut off any right for other countries to hold referendums to leave the EU. For the SCAA to say they have analyzed the detail of BREXIT and think the effects will be negligible only means they are operating in a vacuum, with blinders on.
I am no economist and it does not take more than common sense to come to the conclusion that the effects will not show up until later. It is no different than an economy entering a recession, you don’t know your in a recession until the data actually confirms it. That comes later, months later, not the 2 weeks the SCAA has given to come to their conclusions about BREXIT.
#SCAA #Ivoted #unification
[accordion title=’Karen Cebreros | July 21, 2016 | For Unification’]
One World-One People-One Industry
If nothing changes, nothing changes. No divisiveness.
[accordion title=’Mark Inman | July 21, 2016 | For Unification’]
I was thinking about the points that some of my fellow past presidents have made against the unification idea, and I think they are dead wrong. Here are my own points as to why I believe voting Yes is the best for our association.
1. Origins: The SCAA started its move to unify with the SCAE when they made the decision to become partners in the WCE (all coffee competitions in addition to the WBC). I was the chair of the WBC back then and saw how much opportunity there was for SCAE and SCAA- two organizations with the same mission and similar programs- to get together and support each other. This was in 2010- 6 years ago. So to many, this is not new or sudden.
2. The Process: The SCAA and SCAE started to pull in stakeholders to discuss this merger dating back to 2011. As we are all well aware, once you start pulling in stakeholders, the word gets out very quickly. Most of the key stakeholders (boards, guilds, committees) knew about this communication process from 2011 on..
3. The Organizational Case: A main focus of the SCAA is providing accreditation, certification and education to the coffee community. This is where our future is coming from. SCAA leaders are well aware that there is a whole other community of coffee people in Europe. This merger also provides a significant opportunity for global chapters of the guilds- which both the RG and the BGA want. This is where the SCAA drives value to the community, and the merger brings the possibility of significant growth. The conference- which at one time was the only significant activity in specialty coffee- is now just one part of a vibrant network of events and education. Expos and conventions, once the only game in town, are now only part of the way an association comes together. This was not the case 15 years ago, where the lion’s share of the SCAA’s revenue and relevance came from the conference.
4. Global Inclusiveness: This move sets the stage for an even larger global network. There is a strong argument to be made that unifying with Europe puts us in good position to start expanding the network into Asia- where our leadership sees the largest opportunity. Don’t believe for one minute that this merger stops at Europe.
5. Our Role- We have to remember that we are Past Presidents. As past presidents, our job is to offer perspective from our past experience, but also understand that we may not completely understand the landscape that our current leadership is dealing with. Many of the questions being raised now have actually been answered years ago, and engaged members know that. To many members, this move is not sudden or being rushed. The push to vote now can seem so when there is a gap in participation, as many past presidents have ‘taken a break’ from association participation in past years. It should be noticed that the past presidents who are on board with this decision are the ones still serving on committees and guild executive councils and are steeped in the current happenings of the SCAA.
6. Brexit is Irrelevant- Talking about Brexit and the fall of the sterling (when the SCAE deals in euros) has nothing to do with this merger. Paranoid rants about this topic are foolish. Every time this topic is surfaced, somebody quickly shoots it down with facts that make the argument look foolish and uninformed.
7. Specialty coffee is now a global business- All this old, corny view of the specialty landscape as being exclusively local mom-and pop businesses is both ignorant and silly. Though small businesses are still the core of our community, many of the companies we know best have business interests in Europe or Asia. Many U.S. based roasters sell into these countries as well. Many of our members have locations in Europe and Asia. Many more roasters are either eyeing foreign locations or working to sell their products into those markets. This idea of boundaries is outdated as specialty coffee has burst into a global market. So does the idea of individual associations, in individual countries (or parts of the world), in keeping with the landscape of the specialty coffee business? I say no. The landscape is global, and we should be global too.
SCAA President 2009-2010
WBC/WCE Chair 2011
Roasters Guild EC Chair 2014-15
[accordion title=’Ted Lingle | July 20, 2016 | For Unification’]
Dear Friends: The proposed merger between SCAA and SCAE is an important next step for both organizations. I am very much in favor of this merger, as I believe it will have a positive outcome. Here is why:
1. The North American “coffee revolution” that a small group of people helped start and manage more than 30 years ago has morphed into a “world-wide movement” that touches the lives of coffee consumers around the globe. Nowhere is this more prominent than in Asia, which I consider to be the “last coffee frontier” and is now the fastest growing coffee consumer segment in the world.
2. The people who now carry the torch we lit so long ago, the instructors who teach the programs SCAA and SCAE helped develop, are now asking the question about why they need two credentials, SCAA and SCAE, to present virtually the same curriculum in order to offer certification programs to their students. In effect they are asking why can’t SCAA and SCAE cooperate as they have so successfully with the World Coffee Events program, which began as the World Barista Championship in a corporation co-owned by SCAA and SCAE.
3. The proposed merger is not as much about forming a “world coffee organization” – we don’t need or want to compete with the ICO, as much as it is about maintaining the core principles that motivated so many of us when we first got involved in specialty coffee: “quality is sustainable;” “standards through education;” “equity along the value chain;” and “equal participation by producers.” If SCAA and SCAE take the lead in moving this agenda forward forward, these core values will become a permanent part of the coffee industry.
4. Mergers are not easy and I admire the resolve of both SCAA’s and SCAE’s Boards in wanting to try. I believe there are two major hurdles to overcome: 1) governance; and 2) revenue sharing. It’s one thing to make verbal commitments, but it is quite another to actually give up both “control and financial resources.” However, SCAA and SCAE have done a remarkably good job in expanding the World Coffee Barista championship into an international event that encompasses a wide range of professional technical skills that has attracted thousands of young coffee consumers to our industry.
5. There is a huge risk in taking no action on this issue. The need and demand for a unified program is so great in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, India, and the Middle East that some group will figure out how to do this. When they do, there is no guarantee that the same core values will remain as integral parts of the specialty coffee industry, which would be a significant set back for the coffee producers on which our industry is entirely dependent. So I’m asking you to vote in favor of the merger. I believe it will be a significant step forward over the long term.
Thanks, Ted Lingle
[accordion title=’Gary Saunders | July 18, 2016 | Against Unification’]
Good Day I would like to ask for a moment of your time to look at a slightly different perspective of how we have arrived at this point in our world of specialty coffee and the SCAA. I believe that what we are faced with isn’t necessarily just a merging With the SCAE it’s also the “elimination” of the one association that got us to the global position we now enjoy with the SCAA An independent USA/North American global association that has and should represent the largest group of small coffee businesses and consumer portion of the specialty market. It isn’t about fear as some would have you believe but without The SCAA our small (especially) and even our large (to some extent) group of roasters, retailers, and related businesses will no longer have individual representation or a voice in the world of coffee we will be absorbed and homogenized into the global marketplace. Having said that, it’s not to say that there is not a place for creating an association or an entity that can do what is being suggested for the progressive advancement of coffee’s Sustainability, Education and Training in the world order, I feel that it is essential, but at what cost to the individual coffee venture in North America. The proponents of “the merging” are correct in many of their proposals but I believe that we arrived here not “for” but “because of” the independent influence we built and utilized over what was big organization’s and big businesses that had previously for decades homogenized coffee into just a world commodity, whereas the SCAA breathed life into coffee thru small businesses and passionate people and begin the change to progress into a world that now appreciates coffee’s quality and how we grow, get, consume, and treat all involved in our industry from the Farmer, Exporter, and Importer to the Roaster, Barista, and Consumer. For over 30 years the SCAA has as an independent association led the way, and has been looked up too, to lead, but also has represented its members with the purpose and values it was founded on and has now become the example for specialty associations around the world as we now see with the desire of the SCAE and others to merge but… I think a form of the old adage applies “if it isn’t broken why break it” This positive growth is NOT a reason to dissolve the SCAA and its independence… it’s a time to EMBRACE it! As we have seen, with many of our coffee businesses being acquired and disappearing or being absorbed (some… the founders of our trade as we know it) growth through acquisition is not always good for the individual independent that is left to compete in our coffee world, more influence less representation is always the battle. It has been said by the current board that this is your organization…I agree! we are the Specialty Coffee Association Of America, Please vote NO to merging into a world conglomerate, and vote to continue to be an association that represents its roots, its members, our uniqueness, our geographic diversity, our small businesses, and just as importantly the world of coffee we already have and are building together with other organization’s doing the same for their individual members around the world. Thank you for your time Grady Saunders Past president/current proponent of the SCAA
[accordion title=’Marty Curtis | July 17, 2016 | Against Unification’]
Dear SCAA Colleagues,
I write urging you to vote NO to “Unification” to protect our beloved SCAA from being destroyed.
Now is not the time to merge with SCAE because the unexpected Brexit vote outcome just threw the whole world into a new and unknown political and economic order.
SCAA members, we do not have to put the future of our organization at risk in a European merger today.
Now is the time for the Board to shore up SCAA finances and ensure SCAA remains a strong, secure American organization as we have been, because the Brexit fallout is not yet understood even by the most knowledgeable business people in the world.
It has become clear that a merger with SCAE will end the SCAA and a new organization will arise.
What is not clear is how much it will really cost, and what the benefits will be to SCAA members.
What to do with duplicate association staff positions, Board seats, increased travel costs and support services? Who will pay for it?
There are times in life when caution is appropriate and I believe this is one of those times.
If we vote NO to the merger then we have the opportunity to study it further – why the big rush to vote now?
There are far too many financial and business unknowns like:
I strongly believe that we as SCAA members must not put the strength of our hard-built American trade association at risk today.
We need more time to assess the economic and political fallout of the Brexit vote upon our European sister trade association SCAE.
Let’s continue to do great work in coffee with SCAE without taking on added financial risk at this time.
The first duty of the Board is to protect the SCAA financially, so that the Association mission can be fulfilled.
Today I believe that means we should not take on either the assets or liabilities of another organization that could be so deeply affected by the changes coming to the European Union.
I love our Specialty Coffee Association of America and I am proud of it.
The SCAA already spent more than $250,000 of member money on opinion polls, marketing strategy and financial projection guesses for “Unification”. That is enough money spent already.
All financial analyses have become useless after the Brexit vote and the turmoil in all global currencies.
We even have an Executive Council members saying the British Pound (GBP) has no effect on this merger but yet the audit financials are all in British Pounds (GBP) WOW?
Fellow SCAA members, at this time I respectfully hope you vote NO to “Unification” to protect our beloved SCAA.
Marty G. Curtis
PAST SCAA Board Member 2008-2012
[accordion title=’Gary Talboy | July 16, 2016 | Against Unification’]
Why I am opposed to a merger between SCAA and SCAE
As you may know I am one of the original small group of founders and served as President in the early years. My opinion of the proposed merger with SCAE is that. while it may well serve the purpose of small minority of SCAA members, it would be a mistake of epic proportion in terms of the benefit for the rank and file members of SCAA. Our organization was originally intended specifically to educate and promote the best interests of America’s Specialty Coffee Merchants and Specialty Coffee Consumers. We were sensitive about blatant mislabeling and other misinformation and disinformation to which our merchants and consumers were exposed. Our tendency was to create an organization that would “police” the integrity of major players, but this gave way to the wisdom that education of merchants and consumers would bring about the eventual collapse of those companies with unscrupulous agendas.
I organized the very first, and I will say “tiny”, SCAA trade show in a New Orleans hotel meeting room. It was my personal dream and I believe the hope of all the founders and early members that this show would kindle a fire that would spread throughout the industry to build a vibrant American Specialty Coffee Industry with growing market share. In my opinion our success as an Association in this regard has been magnificent and our service to the Specialty Coffee Industry of America has proved to be beyond global historical compare. Is our current Board not satisfied with this? I believe it is not an error to be satisfied, but seeking more power and influence by becoming a part of a new “World Specialty Coffee Association” would be a grave and irreversible error. Those things that cannot be accomplished through cooperation and outside of a “merger” with SCAE or any other Foreign Coffee Association should be prohibited as being beyond our scope. Those members whose trade would be improved through this merger can be successful and grow their businesses in other parts of the world without having to take the SCAA with them.
Serving the American Specialty Coffee Industry is our original chartered purpose, and should remain the boundary we respect and embrace. A world Specialty Coffee organization that gains major power will in time inevitably be controlled by the most powerful elements in the World Coffee Industry who intend to steer it in the direction that will serve their purposes. If we believe otherwise we must embrace fantasy and ignore historical precedents.
America is rich with unique and distinctive regional coffee cultures which mirror the ethnocentric nature of each region and each community. The SCAA has unlimited opportunity to tailor our initiatives to serve those cultures and encourage their unique development. This will not happen if SCAA becomes a diluted part of a the “New World Order” of coffee
The American Coffee Culture is not a twin sister to the European Coffee Culture, nor should it ever become such. Both are magnificent, each with its own special features, strengths, and weaknesses. Forced “blending” of these cultures through compromised priorities by a central administration that pretends to serve both equally and uniquely is a fool’s errand. When the dust settles one side of any equation is more “equal” than the other. The larger the budget and more powerful the organization, the more ferocious the battles to gain priority. Over time one grows more “equal” than the other.
The consolidation of power and wealth in this world is a primary contributor to decline in the welfare of citizens worldwide, but is continues because it is a bonanza for the wealthy and powerful. The aspiration of SCAA should never be to join this Mandela through a forced marriage between two equally magnificent yet uniquely different coffee cultures. We can cooperate with other Coffee Associations or groups of Associations for mutual benefit, but we need not become one with them thereby relinquishing our unique identity and ability to prioritize the welfare of the American Specialty Coffee Industry.
Of course there is always the danger that we might be left out when others decide to build a “World Specialty Coffee Association” without us. Then we would be stuck with our integrity and identity and culture intact, exclusively serving the Specialty Coffee Industry of the largest consuming country in the world.
With this purpose alone, we should be both challenged and satisfied.
Founder and Past President of SCAA
[accordion title=’Drewry Pearson, SCAE Past President | July 13, 2016 | For Unification’]
A Perspective From Drewry Pearson, SCAE Past President July 13, 2016 I have not wished to engage in discussions involving the vote of SCAA members regarding Unification with the SCAE. Despite the fact that our company, Marco Beverage Systems Ltd, has been a member of the SCAA for a number of years, I do not wish to stand accused of being an outsider interfering where not wanted. However, I believe that I need to address one important point that is being argued against Unification, which is the point that BREXIT endangers the Unification and thus the future of the SCAA. This I believe does not match up to the facts and further is being used as a means to instill fear in the opportunity as well as divert attention away from the very real advantages and ultimately necessity to speak as one consistent and coherent voice in support of Specialty Coffee worldwide. These are the facts regarding the SCAE exposure to Brexit. 1. The SCAE is a UK registered company limited by guarantee. As a result the SCAE reports its accounts in £ Sterling. This does not mean that its receipts, payments or bank accounts are only in £Sterling. While it may be a misunderstanding, it is mischievous to infer that because the accounts are reported in £sterling that all the transactions are in £sterling. 2. The income and expenditure of the SCAE is widely spread both in its source (primarily education, events and membership) and in its geography, of over twenty five countries. 3. Receipts in the past six months have been 85% in €euros and 15% in £Sterling. Payments have been 65% in €euros and 35% in £Sterling, indicating a future net benefit from the effect of BREXIT. 4. Opening up this spread we find further that while 85% of the receipts are in €euros that the source from which these euros are derived is wider still….as follows Source of Income Europe Rest of World Membership 68% 32% Trainers 40% 60% Education 36% 64% Events. 75% 25% 5. The SCAE has three working bank accounts which today held the following disposition of its cash; a. Euro Account 79% b. Sterling Current Account 3% c. Sterling Saver Account 18% 6. In addition to this, the SCAE continues to experience healthy growth. The growth is primarily based on membership fees, education income and events which generate positive cash flow and thus creates cash as part of this growth. • Increase in income 2014 (£2,491k) to 2015 (£2,882) was 12% • Budgeted income 2016 is £3,508k, up 22% on income in 2015. Results to date are in line with budget. • Membership revenue increased by 19% in 2015 and is in line with a budgeted increase of 28% for 2016. 7. Ironically much of this information was presented for any member who wished to attend and ask questions at the SCAE AGM, held on the day of the BREXIT result. As usual few questions were asked and none that I remember related to BREXIT. For these reasons I believe it is clear that the SCAE finances are healthy and robust. They are also well diversified to deal with negative impacts, including BREXIT. Best regards, Drewry Pearson, SCAE Past President
[accordion title=’SCAA Unfication Page | July 07, 2016 | For Unification’]
Multile Perspectives FOR Unification on http://scaaunification.org
[accordion title=’10 Past Presidents of the SCAA | June 30, 2016 | Against Unification’]
This is Donald Schoenholt, co-founder of SCAA, and founder of Roasters Guild. By now you know that there is an SCAA and Specialty Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE) consolidation vote scheduled for this coming week. I am writing to you for a group of 10 SCAA Past Presidents. We’d like to talk to you about our coffee association and its future as we believe you don’t understand that you are being asked to destroy SCAA. We think you should vote “NO” to that.
The trade stands on the shoulders of folks that pioneered specialty coffee, and the birth of SCAA. Right now is the most critical time for the members since the founding of the association. If you choose poorly you will lose your trade association.
The subject is complex. We can’t cover all the aspects of it in this conversation. We have offer you 10 of the most important points to think about.
- THE FOCUS SHOULD BE ON YOU
You and your trade association have ignited the specialty coffee association throughout the world. We think the focus of the association should always be on you, the SCAA members.
The Board wants to be of world importance. That’s nice, but what’s in it for you? Nothing much; except probably dues and fee increases after the 1st year. The top Staff will rejoice. They may all get raises.
- NOTHING IS SPECIAL IF EVERYTHING IS THE SAME
Those favoring merger talk a lot about unifying standards and teaching practices but, universal norms only flatten the specialty coffee world destroying the wonderful diversity of exceptional farming, processing, roasting, brewing practices and cultures throughout the world. To put it in another way, we are diminished when Sumatras are judged by Costa Rica cupping criteria. The benefit of globalization should be in sharing knowledge, and discoveries, not in imposing international norms.
In a world where all are equal, only the mighty thrive. It’s the diverse nature of specialty coffee on all levels, and only that that guarantees the success of the little fellow. Diversity is our friend. Big businesses labor when they are faced with a diversity of products to develop, produce, manufacture, distribute and market. A cataloged, categorized, quantified specialty coffee world plays into the hands of big institutions alone.
- SCAA – AS AMERICAN AS APPLE PIE
SCAA is not an institution as others we know. It is an extension of us, our hopes and dreams for our families, our businesses, and the future of coffee. If that seems overly sentimental to some, it isn’t to you and to us. It’s very personal. What we want for you is an association whose 1st priority is the support and service of you, the members.
Around the world specialty coffee people look to SCAA as the world leader in specialty coffee education, networking, and promotion. As good neighbors you and I share our knowledge with them through our trade group. At the same time we celebrate the unique cultural perspective that makes us American in character as well as in name. You will lose out when the focus leaves North America, unless there are safeguards to protect you built into the deal. They aren’t there now.
- BREXIT AFFECTS SCAA AND YOU
The UK decision to exit the European Economic Community (BREXIT) changes the viability of consolidation with SCAE. The Board has ordered updated financials, as if getting an update will give them powers to see the extremely uncertain world financial future. They might as well use tea leaves.
The Board believes Brexit is no big deal. We believe this opinion is unique in the world. Turn on the TV. The European model of a new world economic order is failing. Now is not the time to throw in with that sinking ship.
You should keep your SCAA, and offer the Europeans a good deal to join your trade association, The Specialty Coffee Association of America, led by America, and benefiting your members at home and abroad, as you have for years past.
- SCAXIT – SCAA WILL BE LOST
Vote for Consolidation as presented and SCAA will cease to exist. There will be no more SCAA. It will be replaced by something else; something foreign. There will essentially be a new trade group. It will not be American in character, temperament, or name.
- THE BOARD BOBBLED THE BALL
The SCAA Board is not sinister. The Board is just wrong. We don’t know if unification is a good idea or a bad idea. We know the Board did this badly. They started by talking about the idea secretly, and then doubled-down by going about it foolishly. There was a nod toward transparency, but no actual openness. The provided information has left out just what the deal is and how it will work, and what happens if it doesn’t work. Here’s a case in point; there is no written Exit Plan for SCAA, if a year or three in, the merger is a failure. If we want out what will the dollar cost have been all-in from inception to withdrawal?
It’s all just one big marketing plan; a grand house blend of jargon, graphics, money, and little substance. They have done it all with mirrors. They may not have intended it but The Board has come off as all-knowing, inflexible, intolerant and conceited all at once. The result is that we must all question what we are being told.
This business of voting on July 5th is dumb. Your leaders are taking you down this path too fast without giving you the chance to digest information that was presented too late to be properly vetted. Being in the dark makes me nervous. How does it make you feel?
You don’t even know how much of your money has been spent on consultants, financial advisors, travel and other expenses in the last years to bring this merger about. We can only guess, and wince.
- IF IT’S A GOOD DEAL NOW IT WILL BE A GOOD DEAL LATER
We think that if unification is a good deal now it will be just as good in a year from now. We believe the opportunity to lose the deal to another is limited, and the need to give this idea more study, and get it right is compelling.
We want your businesses to thrive, and your trade group to move confidently into the future. You can’t get there using unwarranted and dangerous haste. Things are moving very fast now, and we believe that you need to take a breath. Recall the fundamental goals of the association that we built together, and move, after a season of knowledge gathering and reasoned open discussion, with steadiness and caution into a new place, if that is what you decide, and not just hold your nose, and jump into an unknown ocean.
- THE BOARD HOPES YOU’LL PASS
The Board points to past voter turnout and says you don’t care about your future. They think that gives them the right to do whatever they want. We believe that most of the time you are just too busy making a living to give thought to their decisions. Well, this time is different. The consequences are too big for you to leave the decision to them.
The Board is counting on your apathy. They will win a low turnout vote. A big vote will swamp the Board organized few who will vote for unification.
- SCAA DESTINY IS IN YOUR HANDS
You don’t often get the chance to save the world. Here’s your chance. Each of you holds the destiny of your trade group in your personal hands. So vote. Vote your conscience, and we will be satisfied. We believe in you, as we always have, and we will celebrate your decision, whatever it is.
We wish each of you the best of good luck, and good coffee.
Founding Father SCAA & Roasters Guild
SCAA Lifetime Achievement Laureate
And in Alphabetic Order:
- Dan Cox
SCAA President 1984, 1985, 1986
SCAA Lifetime Achievement Laureate
- David Dallis
SCAA President 1994-1995
- Leonor Gavina-Valls
SCAA President 1985
SCAA Lifetime Achievement Laureate
- Paul Katzeff
SCAA President 1984, 2000-2001
SCAA Lifetime Achievement Laureate
- Becky McKinnon
SCAA President 1998-1999
- Danny O’Neill
SCAA President 2001-2002
- Grady Saunders
SCAA President 1993-1994
- Linda Smithers
SCAA President 1997-1998
- Gary Talboy
SCAA President 1987-1988
- Further Reading:
Cui Bono?, Coffeeman’sDiary https://coffeegillies.wordpress.com/
Globalization Blues Part 2. T&CTJ 04.16, P38 http://www.e-digitaleditions.com/i/673312-tc-april-2016
Making a Difference requires personal involvement. Contributing to one of the projects featured in this issue, voting in this and our national election in November, holding a child’s hand, emailing a friend for a note of support, these are not only activities they make a difference. Like the little boy by the ocean watching the old man tossing starfish back into the sea…with each toss of a starfish back into the sea a difference was made.
Get involved…your actions will make a difference!