Los Angeles Baristas Chime In on SCA Deferred Candidacy Policy

Los Angeles baristas gathered at Cuties Coffee to share thoughts about the SCAs Deferred Candidacy Policy and ask questions to SCA board member Heather Perry.


Photos courtesy of Matthew Barahura

Monday, November 20, was Los Angeles’ turn to take part in the series of town hall meetings across the U.S. Members of the coffee community gathered at Cuties Coffee, a queer-owned and -operated coffee shop, to discuss the recent announcements made by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) regarding the slate of competitions to be hosted in Dubai in 2018. The town hall was also livestreamed to a satellite event in San Diego, organized by Kat Adams of the San Diego Coffee Network.

Baristas gathered at Cuties Coffee, a queer-owned coffee shop in Los Angeles.

V.v. Raquel, the events coordinator for Cuties, began the night by welcoming the community into the space and introducing the bell system, designed to keep the conversation safe and productive for everyone. The bell would ring if someone veered off topic or began to use language that did not promote inclusivity. 

Blair Smith of Augie’s Coffee House got the conversation started by asking about the decision to continue planning World Coffee Events (WCE) in Dubai. After a quiet response, SCA Vice President Heather Perry offered some insight into how WCE arrived at Dubai. Perry, while acknowledging the lack of effective communication of the announcement, said that the SCA received only two requests for proposals (RFPs), one from Brazil and the other from Dubai, to host the WCE championships.  

This prompted questions from the attendees about the contract with Dubai, specifically what were the legal ramifications of leaving Dubai and whether the contract could be viewed. It was not immediately clear what confidentiality agreements would permit or prevent that from happening.

In attendance was SCA Vice President Heather Perry, who answered questions and heard suggestions and comments from the audience.

The dialogue then shifted to the Deferred Candidate Policy and its merits. Perry clarified that the policy has yet to be written. Suggestions were taken about how the policy can avoid forcing competitors to “out” themselves to a committee, including allowing them to not disclose the nature of their deferral request.

As the conversation moved to what we can do now, Perry admitted that “business as usual cannot be business as usual.” People threw out ideas, ranging from more localized, inclusive events to dedicated volunteers in Dubai committed to ensuring the safety of those who choose to go. It was pointed out that Barista Guild of America members, who traditionally have not been allowed to vote in SCA elections, now have full voting rights in future SCA board of directors elections.

After nearly two hours of discussion in which the bell rang only three times, the conversation ebbed and flowed. Ranging in tone from anger about the lack of transparency to frustration about Dubai happening to constructive feedback, the town hall left one questions unanswered: What next? People milled about for a half hour as Cuties closed up, processing the night’s discourse. As Heather had said earlier, the SCA is an organization driven by its members. The SCA says they are listening now, but it remains to be seen if it will continue to be business as usual.

Matthew Barahura has been in coffee for over 10 years, the last two of which have been with Intelligentsia Coffee as the West Coast wholesale educator. He is from San Diego, where he helped co-found the San Diego Coffee Network. He has volunteered extensively for the BGA and SCA at competitions, expos, and barista camps.

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