Why Not? Interviews with your BGA Candidates

Hello, from the abyss I call work!

For those of you that still happen to read this website, thanks for sticking with us. Fun and great thins are happening in Seattle and I’d much rather be on the ground working and meeting people than posting my thoughts online.

It’s that time of year to be voting for your Barista Guild leadership. There are 2 Executive Council seats available as well as numerous regional chapter representative positions. While looking through the PNW candidates I couldn’t help but read their bios as if it was my high school class president….

Higher wages for all baristas!

Everyone  member to be certified!


To be honest- it’s all counterproductive to the leadership selection- albeit a volunteer group. Nevertheless, if you volunteer to be a leader I believe it’s in your best interest to communicate your leadership goals, outline a plan, take action and be held accountable.  So without further ramblings- we’re proud to provide the first Barista Guild of America Election Guide for the 2012 North West Chapter Representative position!

Candidate Anna

Anna Gutierrez, Gourmet Source- Bonney Lake, WA

Why Not? Editor: “You travel- a lot….like a lot a lot. How do you think that’s going to help microcommunities thorughout the NW? ”

Anna G.: “I think that is one of the biggest atrributes my current job would give. Not only am I at distributors, I spend a lot of my time stopping by different coffee shops and working behind the bar with chains/franchises in so many different areas in the NW – big and small. I feel like the barista community in areas outside of Portland and Seattle is disconnected and doesn’t completely understand the concept. It would be awesome to have a TNT in Anchorage, AK, Centralia, WA or at least some kind of gathering with baristas in those areas. I’m in the microcommunities on a regular basis and would have the advantage of connecting with baristas in those areas easily”

WNE: “Something I deeply agree with that you mentioned in your bio is bridging the ‘Barista World’ to ‘Corporate Coffee.’ Can you go more in depth to why this is important, how you plan on accomplishing this?”

AG: “I think I value this so much because I am great friends with people in the barista community and honestly just really care about them and our relationships. Also, I started as a barista and never really had that connection to the companies I purchased from when I was behind the bar. Now, whether it’s working for a coffee company or representing Ghirardelli and/or Pacific, I want to be connected with those behind the bar now using my products and also be a resource to them on how to better their businesses. In turn, I love learning from them on what things are changing in the industry and how to better my knowledge of the current state of the coffee industry.”

WNE:” How do you plan on using current BGA member base to do this? ”

AG: “I plan on accomplishing this by making myself more available to baristas and just getting out and into their businesses. If I make myself more accessible on the corporate side of coffee while also admitting my shortcomings, vulnerabilities and what I can learn, walls begin to come down and bridges build up.

I hope to accomplish this with the help of current BGA members getting out into their coffee community. I also would help with hosting and promoting events that current members can attend and inviting others that aren’t members. The more energy and excitement that can be build with current members, it makes it that much more appealing to join the BGA to those that aren’t currently members.”

Candidate Laila

Laila Ghambari,  Stumptown Coffee Roasters- Portland, OR

Why Not? Editors: “In your BGA bio you mention how rich the PNW coffee community is- something I definitely agree with. We have a vast spectrum of talent and skill, most of which is untapped. You mentioned helping out the NW community, what do you think we need help with and how are we going to fix whatever it is that’s broken, if broken at all?”

Laila G.: “Well, first off, I’m excited to see BOSS launch. It’s something I’ve heard you talk about for awhile and I’ve been patiently waiting its premier. This is what I’m talking about when I say rich community. A community that does not just rely on the help of such organizations as the BGA but works together to create something uniquely it’s own. I think it’s awesome but help from said organization couldn’t hurt. I think the PNW is a pretty independent place, we do things our own way (ie ristretto). What I want to do it simply support and foster ideas like BOSS. Allow you to do your own thing but have someone representing the BGA to be a supporter, a helper, a volunteer. The BGA is about community and it’s here to help YOU. Thats what I want to do.
The truth about the BGA right now is that most people are becoming members due to competition discounts. I don’t think thats a bad thing. The BGA plays a HUGE role in competition and after all it is a BARISTA competition so why would the Barista Guild not be involved? I’m a barista and a barista competitor. I signed up for that discount.”

(B.O.S.S.- Baristas of Seattle Society)

WNE: “You also mentioned you didn’t realized how be beneficial being apart of the BGA can be- as a member how has the BGA helped you as a barista that you would otherwise be unable to receive and what are the benefits? ”

LG: ” Here is what I want to do with that. Use it. People are signing up for competition so why not offer more help for competition? Imagine a free class to BGA members where we have last years NWRBC come and do their routine scored by real judges followed by a discussion on the scores, the rules, tips, and open questions. I place where new competitors and seasoned competitors can come together and help each other out. We have so much oppertunity to strengthen the PNW. ”

WNE:”I think we can all agree that more small events regionally, mentors and groups of coffee can help strengthen micro communities that can then collaborate locally, regionally, and nationally. It’s why BOSS was created. How do you see being the NW rep will help facilitate micro communities within your region?”

LG: “The next step would be finding ways outside the competition realm to get people excited about the BGA. We have throw downs, brew offs, and so on. Groups like BOSS are a great way also. This is where I need your help. The baristas. What do you want? I want to help make those things happen.
I’m lucky to have the support of Stumptown behind me, eager to get involved. They are a great resource that unfortunately has not been tapped but I want to change that and I can. ”

LG: “oh yeah and free ice cream for all! ”

WNE: ” Throw in free whiskey and we might have a deal.”

Candidate Neil

Neil Oney- Trabant Coffee, Seattle, WA

Why Not? Editors: “You’ve been pretty heavily involved with the SCAA and BGA in NY, Seattle and nationally. It’s pretty impressive. You’ve obviously put your time in to climbing up the ladder- but it’s what’s below that needs help. You mention advocacy for workers rights, enforcing labor laws, increasing wages and reinforcing the job title as a profession- that’s a lot to bite off. How do you plan on fixing this on a local level?Why do you think these are important priorities for BGA members? Seeing as this is an industry issue and not just a BGA issue- how do you plan on motivating both members and non-members alike on solving this?”

WNE: “And sorry about the bombardment of questions.”

Neil O. : “Thanks for your questions Alex. I’ve been thinking about these issues for a very long time and I’m glad I’m able to talk with you about them now. Yes, my vision for the future of the BGA is a huge undertaking. But when I think of how a “guild” is defined, (a union of men and women in the same craft or trade whose purpose is to uphold and improve standards and protect the rights of its members.), I don’t believe the BGA is living up to this definition. The BGA has done an excellent job in the past few years building membership, creating community and has done a fantastic job with education. But the retail coffee world is still an industry of part-time employees making next to minimum wage with no benefits or sick-time, and only a meager attempt at following legally mandated labor laws. I see the BGA as a useful tool in the fight to bring legitimacy to what we have chosen as our profession. The BGA can accomplish this through the sheer numbers of their membership and through cooperation with SCAA member companies.

My position as the NW Chapter Rep is first and foremost to increase membership and community in the Pacific Northwest and secondarily to help guide the BGA. My home base of Seattle already has a well-established barista community, but given the huge number of baristas in Seattle, and many I’ve met have been in the industry for 10+ years, we have very few members. I need to prove that membership is a worthy investment. Yes, community involvement is a big factor in this. Hosting educational events and barista get-togethers is a fun and useful way to get more people involved in the community at large, but it doesn’t really motivate baristas to join the BGA. In our more mature community here in the NW, further education opportunities, benefits like health insurance, which the BGA now offers, and other potential benefits like a 401K and higher pay opportunities will be a much more enticing proposition.

But this leads us to your main question: how do we accomplish this? Of course, I’m not entirely sure. It will require working within our membership and the member companies at the SCAA to come to an agreement that is mutually beneficial. My rough idea is as follows:

1. Member companies agree to a higher starting wage and guaranteed breaks in exchange for a pool of more qualified baristas (Level 1, 2, or 3 certified) who are more likely to stay with the company longer because of better working conditions.

2. In exchange, the BGA or SCAA can offer resources to help the member company be more economically sustainable through member discounts, business planning, and other means (not yet defined).

3. The BGA can offer outside benefits such as heath insurance to help defray the costs to employers.

4. Member companies that join but are found to not be following the agreement can be removed from the program and, in extreme cases, the BGA can help their member barista find affordable legal council to represent them.

I believe this (admittedly rough) plan is a good starting point to help build a series of incentives and dis-incentives that would build a sustainable, legitimate career for coffee professionals.

This is not something that can be completely accomplished in my two year term as a chapter rep. It will require many years planning and negotiating to do correctly, but starting as a Chapter Rep will give me as many as six years to move the discussion along. I’m dedicated to this goal and want to see it come to fruition.”

WNE: “Wow. Sounds like you’ve put more than a lot of time and thought into this. I’m looking forward to see how this all unfolds.”



Candidate Panda


Michael “Panda” Fernandez, Espresso Parts – Olympia, WA

Why Not? Editors:
” You mentioned that it was important for everyone to be certified a Level 1 Barista. How do you plan on making this happen?”

Panda: ” I would coordinate with other regional reps and BGA members to set up classes. Last year I really wanted to get level 1 certified before camp but I noticed there were no opportunities to do that. I contacted Heather Ringwood who is on the Professional Development Committee for the BGA to see if there was a possibility of doing this on our own. There was! I helped organize level 1 certification written & practical as well as the customer service class that is required for level 1 certification. Bronwyn Serna, Anne Nylander, Sarah Dooley & Heather Ringwood…all BGA members stepped up to help get this done. We ended up certifying around 4 people (I can’t remember the exact amount). By doing this I was empowered because up until that point I didn’t think we could do it on a local level. We are all hurting for money so I understand your concern about the cost of the class. We only charged $20 for everything. If you were to go to The Event in Portland and get the same thing it would run over $300 so we definitely have Baristas budgets in mind.”

WNE: “You also mention adding more educational classes and certifications for members? What type of classes are you thinking and what costs would be affiliated?”

Panda: “The classes that I would like to see are: How to make a schedule for a café, Intro to Café budgeting, and some more espresso machine tech classes. I’m not sure how the cost would be determined but I can definitely look into it. My main concern is yes there is a lot of Espresso prep and milk science classes but they really don’t have any classes based on how to maintain a café on more of a managerial level.
I think the biggest thing Baristas all over need to remember is the coffee industry is awesome and there are a lot of people that want to help in many ways you just have to ask for help. We also have to be more proactive. I know it’s corny but I think we can apply what Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world.” to our own coffee communities.”

We’re still waiting on responses from Cole McBride. But here’s his bios from the BGA website.

Candidate Cole

Cole McBride, Visions Espresso – Seattle, WA
How are you involved in coffee? How does this role fit into the BGA?
I’ve been a barista for 9 years in the NW. My current position is the education director at Visions Espresso, which gives me the ability to host events and classes in their training room. I’ve been participating various events and competitions as well, including IDP class, and I’m a certified lead instructor in the barista guild.

My role as a coffee professional fits in the BGA because I have the unique position with the support with the Visions Espresso training room to help the coffee community become close in my region while expanding the membership.

Why might you be considered leadership material?I’ve been a coffee trainer for the last 5 years, and this has helped me learn how to direct and motivate barista/customers to make better coffee. In the past few years, I’ve enjoyed not only making coffee but also training/teaching people how to make better coffee using my knowledge and skills. I consider myself good leadership material because I have gotten many positive feedbacks from the people that I trained with. I love to be a part of the organizing events to help better the coffee community.  

What are some accomplishments you would like to see happen in the future of the BGA and/or SCAA? 
I’d like to see the BGA grow in members and be able to offer more education on a regular basis. As a Regional Chapter Representative, I would do my best to organize and host as many classes and BGA sponsored events. Currently the major complaint I hear about the BGA is not enough testings, classes, and events to be hosted, and I strongly believe that more events will bring more people together, add more value to the organization, and build a bigger community nationwide. I’d also like to see the BGA/SCAA education materials expand and keep it up to date, there’s always so much to learn in the industry.



Tags: ,

Categories: Barista, Barista Series, Coffee, Community


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