The fledgling Barista Guild of Europe (BGE) made their first public appearance with a communal ping pong table and a booth announcing Europe's first Barista Camp, setup right outside the main stage of the 2014 World Barista Championships in Rimini, Italy. With their first Barista Camp near Athens, Greece, the BGE plan to gauge interest in the organization and start laying a groundwork of barista networking, education, and fun. Judging by the glee with which baristas of all nations were taking to the ping pong table and the steady stream of interested people stopping by the booth, it seems like the new organization already has its fingers on the pulse of the European specialty coffee scene.
The BGE currently exists only as a working group of European coffee professionals, brought together by the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe to turn the dream of a grass-roots, barista focused European professional body like the Barista Guild Of America into reality. Long-time barista, trainer and manager Isa Verschraegen has been hired to handle media and produce the first Barista Camp, and during the WBC she was constantly on hand to answer questions and engage with curious baristas, alongside BGE Workgroup Chair James Hoffmann of Square Mile Coffee, and other members of the workgroup, like Kalle Freese of Freese Coffee Company in Helsinki.
According to Verschraegen, the BGE project was spearheaded by new SCAE president Cosimo Libardo (of Nuova Simonelli), based on a desire to get the organization more in touch and involved with the European barista community. The workgroup is comprised of James Hoffmann, Isa Verschraegen, Kalle Freese, Dale Harris (Has Bean, UK), Andrew Tolley (Taylor St Baristas, UK), Chris Loukakis (TAF Coffee, Greece), Javier Garcia (Right Side Coffee, Spain), Eddy Righi (Pascucci, Italy), and more.
Verschraegen cited the Barista Guild of America as a big influence for the BGE. The Barista Guild of America began in 2003, based on a ground swell of community interest, much of it centered around the Barista and the Roasters Guild sub-forums of the then-popular Specialty Coffee Association of America webforums. Today the organization puts on multiple Barista Camps throughout the United States, helps develop regional events, produces and administers the professional certifications and education classes, and acts as a conduit for barista's voices to be heard at the SCAA.
The Barista Guild of Europe camp in Greece will follow a similar style to the BGA Camps, with a 150 person size limit and a focus on education and certification via the SCAE's Coffee Diploma system. BGE camp takes place October 6th through 8th, with the early ticket price of €350 covering everything but the baristas' bar tabs and flights to Athens, a location the BGE chose for its affordability and accessibility for a wide-range of baristas throughout Europe. The BGE is reaching out to equipment manufacturers and other companies now about sponsorship opportunities.
Educational tracks aren't the only thing the BGA and BGE camps will have in common. The BGE hopes to bring an air of fun and camaraderie to gathered baristas–Verschraegen said one of the many professional goals of the event is to help attendees build a “network of friends, and of couches to crash on all throughout Europe.” There will be plenty of team-building, cooperative competition, hands-on learning, and yes, of course, ping pong.
Alex Bernson is the Assistant Editor at Sprudge.com. Read more Bernson here.