May 18, 2018

How to Run SCA Courses in Producing Countries: A Checklist


Producing countries could be the future of specialty coffee: they have the farms, the coffee shops, the roasteries, the passion and dedication to drive our industry forward. But they’re arguably also where SCA training is most in demand – and where it can have the biggest impact.

I’m a travelling freelance Authorized SCA Trainer and the Founder of Karibu Kahawa Camps, which provides affordable SCA education in East Africa. If you’re thinking of providing SCA training at origin, I encourage you to do it. Let me tell you why – and I’ll also share my checklist for preparing.

Lee este artículo en español Cómo Hacer Cursos SCA en una Región Cafetera

coffee training

SCA training with Women in Coffee Ethiopia and Asli Yaman of Kimma Coffee. Credit: Régine Léonie Guion-Fírmin

Why Are ASTs Needed?

As an Authorized SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) Trainer (AST), I’m qualified to teach a variety of SCA courses. And as a traveller trainer, I must be ready to run coffee courses anywhere with what I have available.

But why am I needed? Especially when more and more producing countries have Q graders?

Q graders are certified coffee cuppers, meaning they can assess the quality of a coffee and also run assessment courses. However, an AST runs training courses. Both have their importance and are needed in producing countries.

A Q grader can help coffee producers understand the quality of their coffee and where it needs improvements. An AST can help a producer understand how to make those improvements. They also train baristas and café owners, roasters, and more – something that producing countries need to boost internal consumption of specialty coffee, creating more demand for the product.

You might also like How Training Cuppers Supports Honduran Specialty Coffee

However, while Q graders are quite well-represented in producing countries, ASTs are often lacking – and it’s at origin where their courses are often needed the most.

Remember that coffee producers are always seeking more knowledge, not just for themselves but also so they can transfer this knowledge to their children, who, very often, leave the coffee farming life behind because it’s too hard to make a profit.


Edward Gómez, Owner of specialty coffee shop Café Con Alma, after SCA training. Credit: Régine Léonie Guion-Fírmin

What Should You Do Before You Fly?

Get vaccinated. Yellow fever is one of the most important ones, depending on your destination. Take Kenya: if you arrive overland during the rainy season, you won’t be allowed to enter without a certificate of vaccination.

Get good insurance that’s valid in the countries you’re going to – accidents can happen anywhere!

Get a bank card you can use abroad. Whether it’s a prepaid cash card, Visa, or Mastercard, you want something that will be accepted by most ATMs and with minimal charges. (Or you can get traveller’s cheques, if they’re still in use where you’re going).

Get enough luggage! As you may need to bring your own equipment, choose the airline that offers the biggest luggage allowance and/or most affordable extra luggage.

making espresso

SCA training in Kenya with Embu University and Rafael Mlodzianowski. Credit: Régine Léonie Guion-Fírmin

What Do You Need to Pack for Your Courses?

Think plastic! It’s much more transportable and durable than either glass or ceramics. Put your aroma vials in plastic boxes, bring plastic cupping bowls, plastic V60s…. you get the idea.

Think carefully about the coffee beans you bring. Generally, producing countries don’t import coffee from other countries, so if you want to expose your students to different origins and potentially different varieties or processing methods, you will have to bring that coffee with you.

Barista tools

Plastic cupping bowls, aroma vials, and more. Credit: Régine Léonie Guion-Fírmin

Don’t Forget!

Language: You may need a translator, whether it’s for Spanish, Swahili, French, Cantonese…

Respect: You have been invited to a different culture. Be humble. In some cultures, men might be asked to not be alone with women. Or women may have to wear a head wrap.

Get involved: One of the best ways to start is to do it gratis. In coffee-producing countries, most of your students won’t be able to afford SCA courses. However, they will be happy to offer lodging, food, and green beans for your services. Later, they can become great connections at origin, introducing you to new students and involving you in their coffee projects.

And finally: donate more, earn less, gain a lot!

coffee producer

Régine, the author, with her student Angie Molina Ospina on Finca La Noreña in Tolima, Colombia. Credit: Jhon Espitia

Follow this checklist to help you prepare to deliver valuable training all over the world. Remember: the future of specialty coffee is at origin – and we can help nurture its growth.

Enjoyed this? Check out How Training Cuppers Supports Honduran Specialty Coffee

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