by Bronwen Serna, Vashon Coffee Company, Western Regional Barista Champion 2002-2003
Every year, around springtime, I look forward to attending the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s annual exposition, The Event. I’ve been attending since I started in the coffee industry in 2000, and have found that it provides a wide variety of professional exploration for attendees. Being an active Barista Guild of America (BGA) member, and long-time SCAA volunteer and participant, I find The Event to be a great way to connect with my colleagues and friends, make new contacts, and continue my educational development.
Volunteering is a fun way to get involved initially, and to find out how SCAA can be beneficial to members. As a volunteer for competitions, classes, or as part of leadership, you get a sense of the workings of the organization, what it takes to create a successful trade show, and the continual improvements to educational programs. I love teaching classes and sharing the knowledge and experience I’ve gained with others; teaching helps spread passion for and expertise in specialty coffee. Personally, I find it gratifying to know I’m helping further the longevity and scope of the industry I love being a part of. Even more so, I continue to learn from other instructors and students, and to get others excited about learning more.
Competition involvement has been a part of my history and growth as a barista and coffee professional. As a competitor, it is one of the most rewarding and nerve-wracking experiences you can have — you develop your skills and share your passion for the craft on a stage for all to see. There is a lot of pressure to perform at your best, but it is a thrill to present something special to an interested audience. As a judge and volunteer during competitions, it’s amazing to see the wide variety of talent and how far the industry has progressed. The best aspects are meeting fellow baristas who are just as excited about their craft, and learning from each other how to be a better professional. For the audience, it can be inspiring to see new methods, the showmanship of the barista’s art, and how beautifully coffee can be presented.
Furthering my education is important to me professionally, and I continue to make taking several courses a priority when I attend The Event. The Barista Guild and Roasters Guild Certificate Programs are great ways to keep me not only continually learning more about the industry, but also of staying interested and challenged. As a beginning barista or roaster, the coursework sets a solid foundation for skills. As you progress in skill, there is always a class or seminar that discusses various new theories or tests your achievement in different skills.
Finally, walking the show floor is a great way to find out what’s new in the industry, and also a good way to make professional connections. I love visiting current vendors or professionals that I work with, but I also make it a point to seek out new contacts, vendors, and products. The show floor is a fun way to test out machinery you always wanted to try, sample a new coffee from an importer, or find a new gadget or product that might interest your customers.
Over the past decade, I’ve come to look forward to The Event. Despite the necessarily limited size and scope of what is possible to accomplish during three days, it is a fun and beneficial event for members and non-members. I appreciate the ways in which I can further my professional education, meet new people, and keep up with industry growth during one trade show.
Additional Info: Learn all about the US Coffee Championships program at uscoffeechampionships.org/uscc and find out how you can get involved!
Bronwen Serna loves coffee and people. A practicing barista since 2000, she earned the Western Regional Barista Championship 2002-2003, holds 4th place in the United States Barista Championship 2003-2004, and holds the U.S. Barista Championship for 2004-2005. Currently, Bronwen roasts for Vashon Coffee Company, slings caffeine at Joe Bar, and consults independently as a barista trainer.