I’m Board

Time for a moan blog post, its been a while.

I decided this year I wanted to stand for the SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) board. I wanted to join the board to represent the interests of the groups of people I work with – producers, baristas, and small coffee businesses.

Some decisions have been made in the past years that I don’t think have been in the best interests of members – missteps and mistakes that could have been avoided. I think we should have more voices on the board that are listening and close to the existing membership, and not allow a group of people who are currently on the board select people they think are closest to their beliefs and values.

The way that the nominations for the board work is anyone can apply, and then the nominating committee decide who goes forward to the voting slate. I don’t think this is a democratic way for an organisation to behave, and can breed a system that only selects the people who want the same things as the current committee. I think the board has become a narrow group of people who have similar goals and beliefs and this is unhealthy for a large organisation with a large amount of different members involved in it, all with very different needs.

As it works out I didn’t get accepted on to that voting slate.

I believe members should be able to select from whoever fits our desires and needs regardless of how large that makes the voting options.

I feel my experience as being the past UK chapter Chair taking over at a very difficult time, and the amount of time I have given the organisation as a volunteer should of at least allow me to be considered for the vote, along with my experience. Let the members decide.

I work not just within the UK, but my partnerships in Drop Coffee in Sweden and in 3FE in Ireland give me perspectives on different markets. I also have an involvement in other markets, including New Zealand following the merger of my company with Ozone there and my travel to producing countries and links with coffee producers gives me a perspective of members thats wide and broad. Sweden, UK and New Zealand, all without a voice at board level.

I have vast experience of running meetings as a chair and participant (outside and inside of coffee), I had the time and desire to dedicate to the many unpaid hours of a board member, and felt that I could have really give something to the organisation and help repair some of the recent damage thats been done, and be a voice of the entire membership.

I’ll keep my free time and energy for another project. But when I give out about the actions of the SCA in the future, please don’t throw at me that then you should stand, the gatekeepers wouldn’t let me in.

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  1. Gareth-Lee Smith 7 September, 2018 at 2:59 pm

    100% agree with this. *Maybe* you’re not the best person for the job (doubt it), but that really needs to be decided by vote and on the merits; not arbitrary short-listing.

  2. Does anybody care what the SCAE or whatever they are calling themselves say anymore? From a customer perspective they have become less relevant to cafes and roasters every year. I don’t even think of them apart from at competition.

    Perhaps it’s time for a new organisation to be started and rise, that’s actually helpful and meaningful to members at all levels of the industry?

  3. I appreciate your desire to represent and speak for those that may not have a voice. I also believe you have a tremendous level of engagement and good intentions and I would have absolutely voted for you to be on the board.
    Can one do “write-ins”?

  4. I believe in what you had shared & all the thoughts you have for coffee community, i will stand for you.
    Paras Bindra

  5. I have to agree with this – in Australia this issue raises its head with burnout in the executive and a Sydney Melbourne power pendulum that swings a different way every few years, but with longer and longer times spent in Melbourne after the WBC was held there and brought prestige / MICE. Meanwhile Canberra barista comp gets removed and the states don’t even have a competition each. Judges get charged, which is something I wholeheartedly disagree with when that rewards the wealthiest parties, not the most talented/giving/dedicated/committed. Likewise as a wheelchair user I’ve been excluded from judging both by choice of calibration venue and by choice of competition venue – and this in the 21st century. Yet as I came into coffee from a sensory background (japanese incense ants essential oil buying, plus vodka judging) and did more work in the wholesale/consulting/comsumer spaces, I was getting thanked for my efforts where it counted locally and doors were firmly remaining closed at higher levels while people paid central funds to their friends’ relatives to fly to other competitions, even international ones, like it wasn’t even something that should be a transparent or accountable process.

    SCA cant shake off the buddies club label and problems, and nor can ASCA, until it ditches the mates helping mates approach and starts to honour transparency and accountability in its own processes and structures, and clearly look at the sectors and segments it’s undervoiced in and address the imbalance. Probably not going to happen in the next decade, however – calls for stability are calls for proliferation of the current status quo. Its one thing not to get elected, and I doubt you’re upset about that per se (other than wanting to help give a voice for another contingent) but its another thing when the direction and makeup of the board is entrenched by its own processes and biases, to the exclusion of valid and important contributions.

  6. Hi Steve,

    Well said and never stop doing what you do!

    A reply comment for John Hancock.

    John as a past President of ASCA and current Chair of the Competitions Committee I was saddend to hear of your inability to access a judges calibration. That is something that we as a committee are unaware of to the best of my knowledge.
    Please know we will work to make such events accessible to you in the future, please email

    To your comments on ASCA, whilst I respect your comments we would be happy to discuss matters in detail for a greater understanding of why. Unfortunately I find it the case that all too frequently there’s a rush to judgement. I’ve been a WBC judge for 10 years and locally for 15 in Australia. The Australian association has a great number of dedicated and, put simply, wonderful people whom if you were to meet, I’m sure you feel very differently.
    I’d agree communication in the past has been mixed but we’d love to have more passionate people support coffee, such as yourself.


    Ross Quail

  7. I could not agree more.

    Cannot have an inside group deciding who can stands as a candidate.

    You would be an excellent person to have on the board, someone willing to speak out.

    The system you describe is a recipe for corruption, and the very least a complete lack of accountability.

    This is not democracy, this is maintaining the status quo, jobs for the boys, cronyism.

    Maybe time for a body that does represent specialty coffee, not a money grubbing operation.

    I speak to many in the coffee industry and they now all question what is the use of this organisation?

    One coffee shops tells me they doubt they will renew as they see nothing in return. They do not get customers because of a bit of wood stuck on the wall that means absolutely nothing to their customers. They get customers because they serve excellent coffee, word of mouth.

    Look to Greece, an embarrassment that President of Coffee Island is in a senior position, Coffee Island being the Greek version of Starbucks.

    Look to Cyprus, another embarrassment Coffee Island in a senior position. When SCA Cyprus was formed, a struggle to find the members, then over one weekend, over 100 new members. Coffee Island had instructed all its coffee shops to join, then who to vote for.

    Then there was the Middle East debacle, choosing a country to host events with appalling human rights record, appalling treatment of women.

  8. I discussed this with SCA board member and colleague.

    They were shocked and appalled. Referred to it as illegal, and said was neither transparent nor democratic, maintains an unaccountable elite, and was contrary to the rules..

    It was suggested you check the rules.

    SCA is rapidly becoming synonymous with ICO and FIFA.

    Merging with USA a retrograde step, as Europe ahead of USA in coffee.

    SCA degenerating into money grubbing outfit. Obscene fees being charged for training and approved courses. In one case, a trainer guiding how to answer a exam questions. W waste of money.

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