February 22, 2017

Training Tips: How to Improve Your Coffee Career and/or Business


Every company would like to see greater profits and efficiency. And every employee wants to feel fulfilled by their work. But this doesn’t happen by luck – it’s the result of hard work, strategic business decisions, and good training. (And maybe a little luck).

So I spoke to Ildi Revi, the Director of Education at Ally Coffee, to find out what makes the best training. She shared with me three things each program should have, as well as specific training needs for baristas, producers, and café/roastery owners.

Spanish Version: Capacitación: Cómo Mejorar Tu Carrera o Negocio en Café

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Ildi Revi (centre) and the Ally Coffee team evaluate roast samples. Credit: Ally Coffee

Key Tips for Training Employees

When people work, they want more than just their basic needs met. Salaries, health care, and holidays are important, yes. But so is fulfillment and professional development. Your employees have an idea of who they want to be in life – and they will be motivated to take steps towards it.

If you’re thinking you want to cater to your employees needs more but find you’re struggling to find the time through all the training, admin and the work you have anyway? You can make extra time and increase work productivity and happiness by using some of the best mentoring software, be sure to check out other available options too!

At the same time, every minute is valuable for a busy staff member. This means training must be needed, visibly effective, and immediately applicable.

“Education has to be something that supports that [fulfillment], so making sure employees are not wasting their time when accessing any training program is something to be considered,” Ildi says.

Companies, Ildi advises, should be honest with themselves about their current status. Then they can work out what they need to close the gap between their goal and reality. This will make sure the training program is valuable. Detailed and measurable outcomes will make that value even more evident.

“Education, at the stage when we are adults who are working, needs to be immediately applicable and valuable. This is the philosophy I take any time I need to deliver a program with Ally Coffee. I need to see what people need to learn and find experts and specialists who will help design a program that is interesting and is very practical so that people can immediately get back to work and start their practices.”

But what training should producers, baristas, and café/roastery owners receive? I asked Ildi to give me her opinion.

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Ally Coffee with producers and Gianni Cassatini of Nuova Simonelli (far left) in Brazil. Credit: Ally Coffee

Training Programs for Producers

Ildi tells me that training programs for producers should focus on helping them to maximize quality and profits. And key to this is an understanding of the supply chain as a whole.

For example, she tells me that producers need to understand what their coffee tastes like. This means cupping, tasting, and brewing programs. These will allow them to analyze their product the same way their buyers do, and make decisions based off that.

She remembers providing training to a group of African farmers with a garden of varietals. They cupped the coffees together and Ildi explained what profiles the market prefers. In this way, they were then able to select the best three varietals in the garden and focus on those. Ildi says, “They knew what factors were important to consider in a good cup of coffee, which gave them more motivation and a great decision-making tool.”

Another recommendation is that producers stay aware of what’s happening in other countries, including their farming techniques. This will give valuable insights into farming in their own country.

But she also reminds me that conditions on farms are different to conditions in a lab – and it’s important for training to reflect this. Ally Coffee designs training programs for producers and teaches them on their farms. Ildi explains that this often provides challenges in the form of equipment and clean water – but it means the training will be more applicable.

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Daniel Vorgapel on Vorgapel Farm, Espirito Santos. Credit: Ally Coffee

SEE ALSO: Interview: How Training Cuppers Supports Specialty in Honduras

Training Programs for Baristas

Ildi underscores the need for barista training to be scientific, logical, and organized. In her experience, formal training designed to meet specific needs is much more effective than ad hoc learning.

I asked Ildi what areas baristas should focus on; she points out that few baristas own the café they work in. As of such, the business needs to consider which skills are of the highest priority for the café, not the barista.

However, she also says that there are basic skills which all baristas need to know – and, what’s more, training on these will be immediately applicable. From milk waste reduction to customer service skills and equipment training, staff and companies alike will immediately see their impact.

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An Ally Coffee team member cups coffees. Credit: Ally Coffee

Training Programs for Café/Roastery Owners

As for café and roastery owners, Ildi tells me that leadership and talent development training can be extremely useful. Since it’s employees who create a company’s culture, business owners should be aware of their staff’s needs and potential.

“A business is like a work of art that is in constant development. It’s up to the business owner to see this big canvas that they are creating, and to step back and objectively make changes in order to keep their company where they want it to go.”

But she’s also of the opinion that business owners should focus more on the customer’s opinion. “In our industry, we’re tempted to talk too much about ourselves, but we need to talk to consumers more.”

Consumer panels in coffee shops are the way forwards, she believes. At Ally Coffee, they have a program called Consumer Product Testing. It teaches business owners how to do product tests. First they match the objective with the testing method, and then they identify the right people to include on the panel.

For example, if a roaster needs to substitute a coffee, she argues that the panel should include consumers. Then they find out if a Guatemalan coffee can be substituted for a Colombian coffee – while still leaving customers coming back for more.

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Ally Coffee staff at a cupping session. Credit: Ally Coffee

Training isn’t easy, but we all know how important it is. When people feel that they are receiving professional development, they become fulfilled by their work. This is one of the keys to happy, motivated employees. At the same time, they produce better work and make more informed decisions, helping the business to see greater profits.

So remember: analyze your needs, choose training programs with visible value, and prioritize immediate applicability.

Ally Coffee is a sponsor of Perfect Daily Grind. This interview was conducted in accordance with our editorial policies, and Ally Coffee has had no greater influence on the final copy than any of our other interviewees.

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