July 20, 2017

Seattle Gains 1st SCA Accredited Campus Dedicated to Barista Pathways


Barista courses are no laughing matter – in 2014, the SCA discovered that Barista Pathway graduates have the potential to earn an incredible US $200,000 more over the course of their career than uncertified baristas.

And now Seattle has its first ever SCA Accredited Campus dedicated to Barista Pathways: the Coffee Education Lab at Visions Espresso Service. We spoke to Katherine Hartline, Education Coordinator, to find out more about the value of Barista Pathways.

SEE ALSO: Coffee Skills: The Daily Routines of a Specialty Barista

latte art

A barista pours latte art at the Visions Espresso Service Coffee Education Lab. Credit: Visions Espresso

What Are Barista Pathways?

Barista Pathways are a series of qualifications designed to help baristas improve their skill sets and further their careers, whether they’re new to the craft or experienced professionals.

Run by the SCA, and endorsed by the Barista Guild of America, the Barista Pathway has two levels. The first focuses on basic skills and the Barista Code of Conduct; the latter on intermediate skills, including areas such as efficiency.

Katherine tells me, “With two levels of dynamic, hands on content, these courses were designed by industry experts to accelerate a student’s professional trajectory.”

The courses reflect the latest developments in both the coffee industry and educational theory. “The SCA has put an immense amount of research and time into their curriculum – both present and future!” Katherine continues.

“One thing I have been impressed by is the attention to learning styles, so that the great amount of information received is actually understood, processed, and retained, so that graduates can be effective at creative problem-solving in their field. For this reason, we send a Fleming-VARK learning questionnaire to all students attending Visions Pathways classes, so that we can tailor the trainings to those in attendance.”

Although these courses are run by the SCA, in Europe a Coffee Diploma is available instead. In January 2018, a new Barista Pathways course will be offered throughout the entire world, replacing both the Coffee Diploma and the current Barista Pathways.


The espresso station at Visions Espresso Coffee Education Lab. Credit: Visions Espresso

Should You Do a Barista Pathway?

“Pathways are a great opportunity to professionalize,” Katherine tells me. “It gives students a set of standards by which to orient themselves as they move through their coffee career, and a common vocabulary that can be used to communicate effectively both across coffee professions and outward to the general public.”

Yet she believes it’s not just about communicating with other parts of the coffee supply chain. “It’s also a great exercise in peer calibration! Pathways events often have students from all over the country, and soon, world. Knowing that one is on the same page as people from other communities is hugely valuable and allows one to lead confidently within their workplace.”

Then there are the networking opportunities, both among a barista’s peers and leaders in the industry. These can be greatly beneficial for baristas, whether they’re looking for new opportunities, career advice, or simply to discuss the latest developments in the industry.

“It gives students the opportunity to learn the most current best practices in coffee, outside of any particular company’s philosophy,” Katherine summarizes, “and access to leaders in the greater specialty community, to whom they may reach out for guidance as they encounter new situations in their careers.”

That’s not to say that baristas can’t gain the same opportunities outside of these courses. However, it becomes a lot easier through the Barista Pathways.

Espresso machine

The espresso station at Visions Espresso Coffee Education Lab. Credit: Visions Espresso

Current Students May Be Running Out of Time

Visions Espresso is Seattle’s first-ever campus dedicated to Barista Pathways – and for Katherine, there’s no more important time for the city to gain this resource.

“The Pacific Northwest in general, and Seattle in particular, has the highest number of students currently in the process of completing the barista certification,” she tells me.

“Since the SCAA and SCAE have unified, a new program will be taught exclusively starting in January of 2018. This means that the current curriculum will become obsolete at that time, and individual credits and partial pathways will no longer be tracked – if you are in the process, you will need to start over.”

She urges any barista currently undertaking a Barista Pathway to complete it before January. “There is a great need in the community for more readily available resources, and I personally am dedicated to helping anyone, special circumstances, one-offs, and anyone in between, to complete their program.”

Find out when will the next courses take place here or students can contact Katherine at education@visionsespresso.com.

Please note: Visions Espresso is a sponsor of Perfect Daily Grind.  

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