Yoga, storytelling, palate development ”the Bay Area Coffee Community is about a lot more than throwdowns
BY ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
The Bay Area Coffee Community (BACC) is an organization with two distinct phases. Originally founded in early 2013, the BACC was meant to foster community and engagement throughout San Francisco, Oakland, and the entire Bay Area. And the group was immediately successful. People around the country were talking about it, sponsors were plentiful, and the group hit the ground running, launching an ambitious calendar of latte art competitions with great prizes.
Other organizations noticed the BACC, and tapped into its success by asking for advice on how to put together their own coffee groups. œI looked to the BACC to figure out how to structure New Gotham, says Talya Strader, one of the original founders of the above-mentioned New Gotham Coffee Community, a Chicago-based coffee organization. Tanya, now with Equator Coffees & Teas in the Bay Area, was the original president of the group and wanted to make sure that the organization had the structural integrity to survive without her. œNew Gotham is still up and running! she says today with a smile.
The same could not be said for the BACC. After a few months, the group (which is generally credited to the hard work of Richard Sandlin, formerly of Fair Trade USA and now with Royal Coffee in Oakland) went dormant ”stopped planning events, stopped doing throwdowns. If you click on the original link to the BACC (bayarecoffee.org), you’re taken to a page in Japanese. For years, no one was really doing much, and the Bay Area didn’t have an organizing group planning events and connecting the barista community together.
No one really took much notice until Jenn Chen, a freelance coffee marketer and photographer, noticed the lack of community engagement and event planning. Jenn got in touch with Talya, who had just moved to the Bay Area from Chicago, and they began thinking of ways to change that. œWe asked Richard if we could revive the group, and he gave us the OK,” says Talya.
The second iteration of the Bay Area Coffee Community began last October with a throwdown hosted by Counter Culture Coffee at it’s Emeryville roasters and training space, and hasn’t slowed down since. Talya and Jenn serve as the group’s president and vice-president, respectively, and have assembled a group of coffee professionals (disclaimer: I’m one of the members of the board) throughout the Bay Area to help them realize the goals of the original group.
However, not everything is the same. œThe original group did a lot of throwdowns, says Talya, œand we’re hoping to create a coffee group inclusive of the entire coffee community. Along with throwdowns, the group hopes to put on a variety of different programs aimed both at bringing the community together and pushing education and professional development.
Coming up with unique activities designed to build community involves thinking about the coffee community beyond the traditional attendees of things like throwdowns. œWe want to connect people who haven’t been traditionally targeted for barista events, says Talya. Over the next few months, the group will be hosting events like Taste Fairs, where professionals of different specialty goods showcase how they approach taste and evaluating products in their field, to storytelling events, where members are encouraged to share their stories from the coffee field.
This is an event Talya is particularly excited about, based partially on its success in Chicago with New Gotham. Modeled after the event and sometimes podcast, The Moth, participants are invited to share stories of their experiences, generally tied around a theme. œWe collect stories, but we’re not bartenders ¦and sometimes these stories involve gross things, amazing things, says Talya. œRoasters, producers, we don’t get to hear those stories [from them] very often.
These events all are in line with the mission of the BACC: œ ¦to support, empower, and foster a community for ALL of the coffee professionals in the Bay Area through educational, social, and networking events. And the Bay Area is an easy place to start a group that encompassing and wide reaching. œI don’t know why this is coffee heaven, but it is! There are great companies that keep up with demands, and people just go with it.
The BACC has amazing plans for a variety of different events, including yoga for coffee professionals, more storytelling sessions, and the aforementioned Taste Fairs. You can find more information about the BACC at the new website (which is in English) hellobacc.org, and you can follow the BACC on Facebook as well for updates on upcoming events.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ashley Rodriguez thought that she’d take a break from teaching middle school science and putz around in a coffee shop for a few months. She ended up digging it way more than teaching (and was vaguely better at it). After spending 5 years making coffee in New York, she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where she worked for Sightglass Coffee for three years. She recently decided to give full-time coffee writing a go, though she can still be found working bar shifts now and again in Temescal Alley in Oakland. Follow her on Twitter at @ashisacommonname