With a couple of new events on the horizon, and the 2016 US Coffee Championship Qualifying Event looming large (February 2nd-5th in Kansas City), we thought this would be the perfect time to sit down with Barista Guild of America Vice Chair and 2014 US Barista Champion Laila Ghambari. We asked her about the upcoming launch of BGA HEY!—an all-caps non-competitive event program set to debut December 14th in New York City—plus plans for future events, barista camp, and much more.
Ghambari spoke with Sprudge from Seattle, where she works as the Director of Coffee for Cherry Street Coffee Roasters.
Hi Laila! We love the no-comp meet-up plan. How did it come about?
The idea came from attending a LaMarzocco On The Road event. I was expecting to hear a speech, or panel talk, or a latte art competition. What it ended up being was people drinking beer, eating pizza, and just hanging out. I felt like this concept was something that the BGA membership could totally get behind. We are always seeking ways to being value to our members and this was a perfect opportunity. Not everyone wants to compete, not everyone can go to camp, but this is something everyone can get behind. So, we brought this idea to the SCAA Board of Directors and they approved the budget to host 20 of these across the country. They saw the same value in this event that we did.
The BGAEC is making members our #1 priority this year. We are trying to reignite the reason the BGA was founded in the first place: to be a community of coffee professionals in support of the coffee professional. I strongly believe the BGA Hey is that “back to basics” type of event that we need right now. We are really excited to give members no other reason to hang out but to hang out.
What’s on the agenda for your first meet-up?
As of right now we have 2 BGA Hey’s scheduled. One in NYC hosted by Sarah Leslie and Irving Farm Coffee on Dec 14th (click here for details) and one held by myself in Seattle on Dec 19th, following our first Prep Fest event earlier in the day that day at La Marzocco USA. All of the BGA EC will be hosting one in December or January. Folks can check out the BGA events calendar to see when and where they are happening. Each host will have their own ideas but no agenda is the general agenda. Just plan to come and hang with your friends. There might be food and drinks, some ice breaker games, a raffle for cool swag, ect. Who knows, maybe we can talk about something other than coffee for a change!
How does someone go about starting a BGA Hey in his or her hood?
We have created an easy to follow template for members to use on how they can host a BGA Hey in their area. If they reach out to the Membership Committee they can get more information and support. We would love to see these popping up all over the country!
If I can’t attend the meeting in person, can I attend in spirit (or on the internet or something?)
You can connect online via the #BGAHEY hashtag but if you can't attend one, host your own! These can be at an event spaces, coffee shop, the park, or your house! Anyone and host one and by submitting it as a Member Driven Event the BGA will promote it!
What else is cooking for 2016 from the BGA?
We heard our membership loud and clear this year thus the BGA EC has been working on creating more regionally focused events. Along with the BGA Hey we have another event we are excited to announce soon that will be taking place in Spring 2016. Coming up we have January Barista Camp, a Roasters Guild / BGA Origin Trip to Costa Rica, creating fun stuff for people to do in Kansas City for the Qualifying Event, TED coffee service, Re:Co Symposium coffee service and so on. 2016 is going to be a busy year!
As well the 2017 competitions are on the forefront of our mind and we are starting the work now to help come to a resolution with the SCAA for the regional barista competitions. It's our job to support the voice of our membership and thats exactly what we plan to do.