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Why Become an SCA Certified Barista?

June 2, 2017

Why become an SCA Certified Barista?

Editor’s Note: This week we sat down with Savannah, Cafe Virtuoso’s quality control manager, lead trainer, and the founder of the San Diego Coffee Training Institute (SDCTI) to discuss why she believes it’s so important for baristas to be trained properly and the value of becoming an SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) Certified Barista.

Starting June 2, Savannah will begin teaching paying students the first round of SCA certified barista courses at this recently-formed organization. SDCTI also runs as a nonprofit by utilizing tuition from paying students to also help marginalized members of the community in need of essential skills to start the path to self-sufficiency.


Q: Why should baristas consider becoming SCA certified?

A: Within the coffee industry, there’s about a million different ways of doing things. This brings about lots of variation for methods of preparation, and inconsistencies galore in the final product. Certification means that the barista understands the specialty coffee industry standards and protocols for coffee treatment and preparation to prepare the best cup of coffee possible. It establishes a baseline for the final product, therefore creating control and consistency for the barista, as well as the business they represent.


Q: Why is an SCA certification more valuable than barista certifications from other organizations?

A: SCA certifications are known really for being the de-facto standard in the industry based on years of experience from thousands of coffee experts from around the world. It’s the most current and the most highly-regarded certification in the industry. The advantage of this particular certification over other organizations is huge. SCA is not only made up of the world’s top specialty coffee industry professionals, but it also provides baristas, farmers and roasters alike with a network of like-minded and hard-working individuals in which to collaborate. It’s an outlet to continually learn and teach while also having amazing experiences traveling to national and international events across the globe.


Q: What are the three most important skills that a barista must master?

A: I only get to pick three skills!? There are so many that a great barista must master, but first and probably most importantly is learning how to calibrate tastes in coffee with other coffee professionals, and developing a palate for coffee, ideally through cupping regularly. Secondly, it’s critical to learn how flavor is greatly affected through the smallest of changes or variations in technique, equipment and even the temperature and quality of water. Not to mention, how each and every brewing method—whether it be brewing espresso or one of the various manual brewing methods—yields a very different result. Lastly, impeccable customer service and/or service recovery skills are needed to ensure that customers are always happy and also become repeat customers.


Q: Do certified baristas make more money? And in what other types of jobs/career options can barista certifications benefit people?

A: An SCA certified barista can easily make upwards of $200k more in their lifetime than non-certified baristas. The reason is that most baristas who advance in their skill set move onto become management, then generally transition into various other positions within the industry such as consulting, roasting, wholesale/account management, sales, and import/export.


Q: What differentiates SDCTI from other SCA certified campuses? Why choose to attend SDCTI to get certified?

A: We are different from other campuses because we are the first SCA campus that is also a non-profit organization. The paid courses that we offer to students also allows us to extend our hand to various marginalized populations, such as homeless, youth aging out of foster care and former inmates who are all in need of career and other essential skills to be able to begin supporting themselves. So essentially, you’re not only learning new skills for yourself, but your tuition fees are allowing you to contribute to help someone else at the same time.

We’re also located in San Diego (which in my book is a huge bonus), and as the southernmost campus in the Western United States as well as a major vacation destination for hundreds of thousands every year, it makes it an ideal location that gives you an option to stay and play for a few days after classes have wrapped. It’s a relaxed, low-pressure environment to come to learn new skills, network and experience what others in the industry are doing to perfect their craft as well.

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Savannah Phillips

Quality Control
A Level-Two Certified Barista, native Northwesterner turned So-Cal girl, Savannah is also addicted to yoga, hiking, meditation and long drives up Coast Highway 101. She doesn’t remember ever not loving coffee. Even as a child, when most other kids typically hate the taste, it was something she craved, which looking back, was unquestionably an early prediction of a career devoted to specialty coffee.

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