There are baristas and then there are master baristas. You now see many espresso stands and espresso houses like Starbucks where their baristas get one or two weeks of training. But, are those who make your espressos, lattes and cappuccinos really certified baristas? One non-profit group does not think so.
It actually takes years to become a Speciality Coffee Association of Europe master barista. The process is a controlled and certified system with a curriculum written and updated by the best minds in the coffee industry. The title, Master Barista, is achieved by what you have learned and done through a number of years plus completing a very demanding and comprehensive curriculum, which is similar to a college master’s degree. Yes, a master’s degree in a college. So, how many are there with a degree of broad and specialized coffee knowledge? In total there are 151 from around the world; only one is from the United States.
To get this degree you have to sign up either in person or by mail and pay a fee in hundreds of dollars depending on the level you choose. Once you have been accepted you must write a thesis on a given coffee subject and write another thesis on the subject of your choice. SCAE master baristas suggest that you use a mentor or a supporter that you know you will be able to get along with during the learning and writing process. Nine months later, you will meet with a three person panel of master baristas for at least thirty minutes at a place and time they request or at a SCAE World of Coffee event. It is at this time you will give your presentation and take a written test that will take 60 minutes and a practical test that is 30 minutes long. The main focus of SCAE is discovering a better world of coffee from the seed to cup. It is within this point of view that papers are written.
The two required thesis papers are sent to the master baristas office two weeks before the meeting with the Master Barista panel. Questions about the thesis papers will be asked at the first panel meeting. After the meeting, the Master Barista panel will decide whether the two thesis papers meet their standard for approval and, more importantly, that they meet their set criteria.