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Should I Come Back to Coffee?
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Senior Member

Joined: 4 Aug 2006
Posts: 32
Location: CA
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Tue May 29, 2012, 12:06pm
Subject: Should I Come Back to Coffee?

Hi all. It's been a while since I've visited Coffee Geek, some time since being a barista, and quite a long time since I've had a good cup of coffee. Life's fickle that way. Now I'm considering returning to the coffee industry, but I don't know where to start. Is it out of fashion to ask for free career advice via the web? It's difficult to keep up on those things. Anyway, let me start with a little history.

My passion for coffee began with one of my first jobs as a barista at a local coffee shop that was run by a couple who attended the same church as my family. I grew up visiting their shop and both of my sisters, their husbands, several friends and I had all worked there at some point. Sadly, the shop closed as the economy soured and a Starbucks was opened on (literally) every corner adjacent to the shop. I couldn't beat Starbucks, so I joined them. I worked for the big S until I finished university, then I went to work for a bank. Now I am serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Rwanda.

I feel like I lost a lot of my drive while working for Starbucks. One manager told me that if I had as much passion for getting promoted as I had for the coffee that I would have been a manager already. I thought that it was about the coffee and the customer experience, not about advancing up the corporate ladder?! At first I refused to drink the coffee I was serving at Starbucks. Then I started (ab)using it the same way many other Americans do. I'd show up for a red eye shift and immediately down six shots of charcoal-tasting espresso. Eventually I started drinking other beverages too as there was a lack of alternatives. Now, even though I live in a region that grows (IMO) some of the best coffee in the world, I really only have access to instant coffee. My palette has been compromised!

I will finish my service in Rwanda at the end of next year and I am still trying to figure out what I want to do when I return to the States. Walking through the hills of my village and seeing the coffee trees ripe with cherries has reignited my interest in coffee. As a barista, I always dreamed of one day becoming a coffee buyer, traveling to exotic destinations (I know, in reality it's no more exotic than the village life I'm living now) and performing cuppings. I know that coffee buyer is a position that is difficult to attain and requires years of experience in the industry, but I still feel drawn to return to the coffee industry in some way. I just don't know where to start.

Will I be forced to start again from the bottom as a barista, working for little more than minimum wage and tips? That was great for getting me through college, but I'm not sure that I could make ends meet doing that again. I've dabbled in home roasting and the idea of working for a roaster intrigues me. I also really admire companies such as Batdorf and Bronson and Espresso Vivace. I know that there are organizations such as SCAA, but does joining such a group really benefit one's career or would I be squandering my money? Any tips, suggestions or advice from you fine knowledgeable people at CG would be greatly appreciated!
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