With the SCAA announcement that the Regional Barista Comps would be discontinued, Café Imports cancels origin trip sponsorship ”but never fear: They’ve just announced an amazing new education platform, The Legendary Coffee Producers Tour!
Café Imports announced today that it will discontinue its origin trip sponsorship, which the Minneapolis, Minn.-based importer has contributed to the United States Barista Championship and the World Barista Championship since 2011.
This is a sad turn of events for everyone in the barista competition community, but perhaps none more than Café Imports itself. Café Imports educators and green buyers have loved the opportunity to bring the 6 Regional Barista Champions, and the winners of the United States Barista Championship (USBC), and the World Barista Championship (WBC), to coffee origin every year in the year of those champions’ reign. For many of the baristas, it was their first time visiting a coffee-producing country. Baristas who have attended these trips in the past have said that the inspiration they gained has propelled them in their coffee careers.
“One of the biggest reasons we saw the origin trip sponsorship as benefiting our national coffee community was the fact that it empowered people from every geographic corner of our country to come back with experiences that benefited not only them, but also their local communities,” says Noah Namowicz, partner and VP of sales for Café Imports, who has been one of the driving forces behind the company’s efforts to offer creative education to professional baristas through this sponsorship. “One of the most beautiful things we have seen over the past five years is witnessing what these incredible coffee professionals have come back to do on the ground. The barista champions are not only champs of their region, but also role models and champs for specialty coffee in their communities.”
In late June, the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) announced that it would discontinue the Regional Barista Competitions, which have historically identified barista champions in six regions of the United States. Café Imports’ origin trip sponsorship offered these six baristas, plus the USBC and WBC champs, an unprecedented, all-expenses-paid journey through a coffee-producing country, where they interacted with farms, toured mills, met with exporters, cupped coffees, and bonded as a group through education and also side excursions. For example, on the Kenya trip in 2013, baristas went on a safari. In Costa Rica in 2012, they spent a few days at the beach surfing at the end of the trip.
Café Imports’ origin trip sponsorships have taken groups of baristas to Brazil (2011), Costa Rica (2012, trip took place in 2013), Kenya (2013), Ecuador (2014), and Colombia (2015; look for the article about the Colombia trip in the December+January issue of Barista Magazine). The expense of these trips to Café Imports, including sponsorship fees to the SCAA, totaled around $35,000 per year.
Though the origin trips are being discontinued, Café Imports is as determined to offer exceptional educational opportunities to the United States barista community than ever, and will debut the Legendary Coffee Producer Tour in 2016.
“We are proud to announce the origin trip sponsorship is going to be replaced for the 2016 cycle with the Legendary Coffee Producer Tour, in which our staff along with four different coffee producers from around the world are going to tour the U.S. sharing education and knowledge with the local communities,” says Noah. “In a sense, we are bringing origin to the U.S. this year as opposed to bringing the baristas to origin. We feel strongly that leaving the vacuum from regional events without something that has the same energy and enthusiasm as regionals will be detrimental to the U.S. coffee scene, so this is our attempt to help address that.”
Noah says the Legendary Coffee Producer Tour will stop in three U.S. cities ”on the West and East Coasts, and in the Central United States ”and will be a one-day event offering free education and social networking opportunities to any barista who RSVPs. “We will be taking the funds spent on the origin trip sponsorship and allocating them to bring these 4-6 producers to the US, fly them around the country, and host them for a week,” he says.
The Legendary Coffee Producers Tour dates and locations are as follows:
February 22nd ”Olympia Coffee Roasters, Olympia WA Event info
February 24th ”Café Imports, Minneapolis MN Event info
February 26th ”Square One Coffee Roasters, Lancaster PA Event info
Producers to be featured on the tour:
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