This weekend, coffee professionals from across the country will descend upon New Orleans to take part of one of the specialty coffee industry’s most visible and prestigious events. Aptly called CoffeeChamps, the event will be highlighted by several competitions that test the talents of coffee professionals in several key disciplines – Barista Competition, Brewers Cup, Cup Tasters and Roaster Competition.

Competitors at CoffeeChamps, including several from New Orleans, will be vying for a spot in the U.S. Coffee Championships later this year, with the eventual winner representing the United States during the world competitions. As a regional qualifying site, it’s an incredible honor for New Orleans to host CoffeeChamps. With our growing specialty coffee scene, this weekend presents an opportunity to showcase the excellent work of local baristas, roasters and an array of coffee retailers that are elevating the craft.

We’re proud of the slate of local coffee folks who will be participating in CoffeeChamps, and excited to see friends from around the country take part in this event. But with CoffeeChamps coming up this weekend, we’re compelled to discuss an issue that has galvanized much of the coffee community in recent months. We hope to provide insight and context in this blog post, but welcome any feedback at info@mammothespresso.com.

The Specialty Coffee Association and the Deferred Candidacy Policy

As the world’s largest trade group for coffee professionals, the Specialty Coffee Association has a tremendous responsibility to impact industry standards, further education, promote professional resources and conduct events, including regional, national and global competitions. In September 2017, in an announcement that surprised and dismayed many, SCA awarded three of its top competitions – 2018 World Brewers Cup, World Cup Tasters Championship and World Coffee Roasting Championship – to Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

UAE is a country with a long history of abuse and mistreatment of members of the LGBTQ community. With this decision, the SCA forced coffee professionals – including competitors, volunteers, judges and its own staff members – to question whether they should put their personal safety at risk for the sake of participation. The decision also calls into question the priorities of the association, and where  the wellbeing of coffee professional lies among them.

After the September decision, there was a considerable amount of pushback from individuals, businesses and partners of the SCA. In response, the SCA board of directors convened a meeting to consider their position, and ultimately released its Deferred Candidacy Policy, which aims “to protect competitors who may be prevented from participating in a world championship event due to nationality, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual identity/orientation, health, bereavement or force majeure.” The solution, the SCA believes, is to allow competitors to elect to defer their participation until the 2019 world coffee event.

Under the deferred candidacy policy, competitors must petition the SCA and the world coffee events advisory council regarding the circumstances that prohibit their participation. It is our belief that no individual should be required to out themselves to a professional trade group or provide this manner of “proof” as a condition of their participation. We believe this policy is exclusionary and reflects an association that ignores the interests of its members.  

We Are Force Majeure

As a company that supports wholeheartedly the rights, respect and access of individuals in the LGBTQ community, as well as the professional development of coffee professionals, we are saddened by the recent actions of the SCA, and feel compelled to speak out against them. We stand in solidarity with those who disagree with the SCA’s decision and policy, and support efforts to expand conversations on inclusiveness in our communities.

In the coming days you may notice people in coffee shops in New Orleans, including Mammoth Espresso, wearing solidarity pins. These pins are part of a campaign intended to foster a sense of community at coffee events, and serve as a means to protest the decisions of SCA while supporting coffee professionals who may be participating in these events.

The campaign is called We Are Force Majeure, which was inspired by a line included in the SCA’s deferred candidacy policy. Force Majeure refers to an irresistible compulsion or greater force. Mammoth Espresso has requested a small lot of the enamel pins that it will provide, free of charge, to coffee professionals who wish to show their solidarity as CoffeeChamps comes to New Orleans. If you are a coffee professional and would like to wear a pin, please send an e-mail to info@mammothespresso.com.

Lastly, we’d like to thank Sarah Rice Scott, Lenora Yerkes and Dawn Shanks, three DC-based coffee professionals, for starting the We Are Force Majeure campaign.

In Solidarity,
Jonathan and Darlene Riethmaier
Mammoth Espresso

#WeAreForceMajeure