Imagine standing in line at your favorite coffee shop waiting to order your 12 ounce, nonfat, extra shot latte when you suddenly notice the espresso machine is being taken apart. You get worried, wondering if you’ll be able to get your caffeine fix at all. By the time you reach the front, the machine is put back together, no longer being poked and prodded with a wrench by a technician you’ve never seen before and your barista has your latte ready for you before you’ve even paid.
Three and a half years ago, Cameron Ankele was a personal trainer, and before that he was a bullet maker for a small ammunition company. His love for coffee began in 2008 when he visited the Kaldi’s Crescent location everyday, and made his way to as many public coffee cuppings as possible. When he heard there was an opening in the tech department at Kaldi’s, he said it was a “no brainer” to apply for the job.
When Kaldi’s Coffee had the opportunity to host representatives from La Marzocco, the high-end espresso machine manufacturer, Ankele jumped at the chance to discuss his dreams of starting a Coffee Technicians Guild. Shad Biaz, technician and training for La Marzocco, discovered they had the same passion for creating a guild for the coffee techs in America. “If you guys are doing it, Kaldi’s wants in,” Ankele said.
A small group of industry individuals began working very closely with the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) in order to get where they needed to be before their first big event. “Technicians are very different people than anything the SCAA has ever seen,” Ankele said. “ We are very driven, meticulous individuals who like everything to be a certain way.” “What we’re trying to do is separate ourselves from [other service technicians].” “There really aren’t very many high quality coffee-focused technicians in the world. So we are really trying to get ourselves certified to the highest standard possible.”
The machines being used by baristas are very technical, and require a lot of training to be able to diagnose and fix in a timely manner. The coffee technicians working at Kaldi’s Coffee go through a year-long apprenticeship to learn everything they need to know before they are able to make service calls on their own. “The way we train at Kaldi’s is how we want to do it at the Guild, however the Guild will actually be setting high industry standards as well as certifying [individuals] as a brewer and a barista,” Ankele said.
Everything within the Coffee Technician Guild is going to be held to the SCAA gold standard. Each technician going through training will have to be brewing certified and barista certified, and eventually be held to this incredibly high standard of tech certified. “It’s going to be really difficult to attain,” Ankele said. “But once you have that certification, it will totally standardize and separate us from the pack.”
At Kaldi’s, we have the opportunity to offer our wholesale clients technical support with our in-house technician team. “When you look at our tech team, it is truly amazing what we do with six techs. We have to be so coordinated with our scheduling because we have so many wholesale clients. It’s such an incredible balance,” Ankele said of this team. “It is a huge benefit for a roasting company like Kaldi’s to offer service. We are such a customer driven company and to be able to offer what we can provide is incredible. To be able to communicate to a new customer that they don’t have to find anybody to [fix something] because we have it covered, is invaluable”.
Many individuals don’t understand what a coffee technician does, and our hope is to shed light on the amazingly talented individuals who work in this field and on the Kaldi’s tech team. As the industry continues to grow, so will the need for hard-working and passionate people to join this Guild. Next time you’re in one of our shops and see the machine being worked on, stop and talk to the technician – it may be Cameron, who is a part of the team developing the SCAA Coffee Technician certification standards.