The Atlanta-based program educates and empowers the specialty-coffee community.
BY MARK VAN STREEFKERK
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Images courtesy of Connan Moody.
After spending close to a decade working in bars and cafés in New York, Connan Moody returned home to Atlanta, inspired to enrich the local coffee culture. Connan founded Academy Coffee in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward/Inman Park neighborhood in 2018, and shortly after, he and his friend Jake King, director of coffee at Bold Monk Brewing Co., started comparing notes about some of the issues facing the coffee scene.
“[We] shared frustrations with lack of access to education as well as, generally speaking, people not giving the idea of being a barista a real chance,” Connan says. “When you’re looking at getting a job as a barista in Atlanta right now, you have equal chance at getting a job as somebody [in college] who just needs a part-time job. And that’s a dangerous situation to be in for baristas, mainly because it doesn’t validate the idea that being a barista or being a coffee professional can be a career, but it also has a tendency to make it so that the people who own coffee shops pay wages that are unsustainable for people in Atlanta to survive.”
As he and Jake continued talking, the idea slowly came together to team up with other coffee professionals and offer coffee education, but a little differently. First of all, it would be free, and secondly, it would be personalized to meet each trainee where they are. Connan explains most training programs are “a series of checkboxes that end up with: Can you steam milk? Cool. Can you do a heart? Cool. Can you dial in within 15 minutes? Cool. You take one class to learn those things and prove those things, and you should be fine for the rest of your time. But there’s no follow-up education in a lot of these programs.”
They came up with the name GYST, an acronym for Get Your Shit Together, and Connan and Jake made the leap at the beginning of 2020, contacting sponsors and coordinating with coffee instructors to donate their time. Notable sponsors include Oatly, Rishi, La Marzocco, and Acaia, and the teaching roster boasts a combined 50+ years of experience behind the bar. GYST has hosted trainings every Monday afternoon since the beginning of the month—a schedule they plan on maintaining as sponsorship and interest allows.
Trainees are currently a wide range, from day-one beginning baristas to U.S. CoffeeChamps competitors. While plenty of people outside of coffee have contacted GYST for training, they primarily focus on educating current baristas. Their end goal is to become a renowned training resource, offering education on subjects like green coffee buying, roasting, and even “How to Open a Café,” in addition to the basics of dialing in and palate development.
“We’re all in this together,” Connan says. “We’re going to try to make everybody better. There’s a lot of people who think of education as proprietary and all that, and in my honest experience, a rising tide raises all boats. We all are better off for it.”
GYST will host their official launch party at Bold Monk Brewery tonight, February 27.
If you’re in Atlanta and interested in GYST coffee training, you can contact them at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Van Streefkerk is Barista Magazine’s social media content developer and a frequent contributor. He is also a freelance writer, social media manager, and novelist based out of Seattle. If Mark isn’t writing, he’s probably biking to his favorite vegan restaurant. Find out more on his website.