#SCAA2016 was the kind of could-we-do-that-again brilliant time that leaves you desperately excited to go to the next installment of the annual Specialty Coffee Association of America’s expo. It’s the sort of Sound of Music mountaintop experience that keeps thousands of coffee lovers coming. In short, if you like anything coffee, this is the place for you to go – and I’d love to tell you about how you can taste coffee, network, get samples, and sit front row to competitions like the the Barista Championships for free.
Yes, you read that correctly: you can go to #SCAA2017 in Seattle for free. All you have to do is spend some hours helping out with the well-oiled SCAA machine.
Join the SCAA volunteer team – we’re all smiles!
How Does It Work?
When you sign up to volunteer, SCAA gives you a three-day pass in return for a minimum of fifteen volunteer hours. Read here for additional information.
After you’ve volunteered for the allotted amount of time you signed up for, all bets are off. You’re free to romp and roam around the expo center, visit booths, meet people, and taste coffee.
Brewin’ up a storm at SCAA 2016.
What Are the Benefits?
1. Free Coffee
If this isn’t reason enough to volunteer at the next SCAA expo, I don’t know what is.
SCAA has an abundance of pop-up shops with brilliant coffee makers at their helm. This year’s pop-ups were the likes of Revelator Coffee Company, Summit Coffee Company, an exciting Espresso Parts x Kalita project, and many more.
What’s more, the Barista Guild always likes having their certified baristas getting some more practice, so you’re able to visit their station at any time to enjoy an espresso-based drink from shops such as Toby’s Estate and Bard Coffee.
All attendees are also privileged to participate in the judging of the Roaster Championship by tasting the coffees presented in competition and voting for them on the SCAA app – that’s right, they even have an app. More free coffee!
The booths inside the expo hall are full of roasters eager for you to try their product; manufacturers of espresso machines, brewing systems, and grinders, all of whom want you to try something made with their equipment; and green coffee importers who have exciting new offerings to drink. If you like coffee, they have coffee and they have as much as you’d like of it.
There’s no shortage of free coffee when you volunteer at #SCAAExpo. Credit: Matt Scheffer
If there’s a place where job searchers, job suppliers, giants in the industry, international businesses, and domestic wonder companies come to meet, it’s the SCAA expo. With over 850 booths and thousands of attendees, it’s hard not to meet someone interesting. Come prepared with a great handshake and a stack of business cards, and you might just meet your future employer or partner.
Oh, and if you aren’t one for clipping on the tie and shining your shoes to go smile for uncomfortable amounts of time, no worries. The specialty coffee industry feels the same way, and so they’re A-OK with business casual.
I’ve been to a good amount of networking events and, trust me, this is one of the most pleasant. The SCAA app is also convenient in facilitating this, as a feature they’ve included is one that scans another person’s badge and registers their contact information.
All that coffee will give you plenty of energy for networking. Credit: Matt Scheffer
Having trouble finding things to put on your résumé when applying for barista positions? Helping to facilitate a cupping of a new selection of Indonesian coffees may do the trick. Experience = eligibility = employment.
And at SCAA, you can work shoulder to shoulder with experienced baristas, championship competitors, and coffee trainers, doing work such as maintaining the stations competitors use in the Barista Championships, welcoming attendees to pathway classes or lectures from World Coffee Research, or even performing TDS (total dissolved solids) tests on the coffees made for judges in the Brewer’s Cup.
There are numerous opportunities to gain experience at #SCAAExpo. Credit: Matt Scheffer
4. Coffee Community
Working for five hours with someone means you have a window in which you can really get to know them. While our experience varies, as some volunteers are from shops in very different parts of the world or work doing different jobs, such as roasting, sourcing, or even bussing tables, we all love coffee.
So if you’re looking for a place filled with those who share your enthusiasm about the effect good water has on brewing, or the importance of holding a cup from the bottom instead of a handle when pouring latte art, this is place to be.
In addition, the SCAA is a wonderful organization to lend your time to. The benefits of being included in their community number more than I can count. One thing in particular that I should mention about their volunteer program is that they’re flexible and friendly. Having to change my plans a couple times meant that my availability changed as well, and they were more than accommodating. In addition to this, they’re conscious of the needs of their volunteers. Honestly, SCAA loves volunteers like you love coffee black.
Look at that love, care, and attention. Credit: Derek Haas
How Do I Volunteer at the SCAA Expo?
Registration for the 2017 expo will begin as soon as September 2016, so keep an eye out for positions opening on the SCAA’s event website. If you’re a latecomer, no worries: SCAA accepts volunteers up until shortly before the expo is in town.
Can’t Wait Till SCAA 2017? Volunteer for SCAE Dublin 2016!
If you’re interested in volunteering at SCAE and the World of Coffee Dublin 2016 (23-25 June), please visit here.
Like I said, free coffee never hurt anyone, getting to network ups your chances of finding that dream job, experiencing the specialty coffee industry up close gives you unique, marketable skills for future experience, and the coffee community is a great community. Consider trading your time for these things. I promise, you won’t regret it.
Edited by T. Newton.
Perfect Daily Grind.