An Open Letter To The SCA Directors From 2012 USBC Champion Katie Carguilo

An open letter to the Specialty Coffee Association Directors from the 2012 United States Barista Champion Katie Carguilo.
Katie Carguilo is the 2012 USBC Champion and works with Counter Culture Coffee.
Image by Elizabeth Chai for Sprudge.

This open letter to the SCA regarding their decision to hold an international coffee competition in Dubai and its subsequent deferral policy was originally self-published by Katie Carguilo on Medium. It has been republished here with permission.

Esteemed Directors,

I’m disappointed in your decisions surrounding hosting the WCE championships in Dubai and the subsequent deferral arrangement. I’m sure you are hearing from many in the community so I won’t rehash exactly why the Dubai choice is risky and exclusionary, but I will say that it is inappropriate to ignore these risks for a professional event. I also believe the deferral arrangement is an inhumane and unsuitable solution.

I’ve been working in coffee since 2002, starting as a barista and more recently as a coffee buyer. I’ve participated in competitions since 2004 as a competitor, United States Barista Champion, and coach. Any barista who signs up to compete understands they are also signing up to be a representative of the SCA. That is why I am writing to you today.

I wouldn’t be where I am without the opportunities — and affirmations — afforded by competitions. I know what it’s like to travel to compete and what it’s like to compete as a member of an under-represented group. I can tell you that competing in a hostile environment — which Dubai is to many competitors — is going to stack the deck further against those for whom we are trying to provide a level playing field. There are already so many not starting on their journey to become a champion — a journey that took me 8 years to complete on a national level — because they don’t see a representative path to success. I worry about the potential champions we will not see in the future because the SCA is not considering all aspects of the competition — aspects like location — that disenfranchise potential competitors and attendees.

I’m calling for the SCA and WCE to instate a plan of action with declared criteria for selecting locations that affirm the SCA’s stated values.

Coffee is a global industry and it’s members have diverse views and are living in countries with varied laws. We all want to respect diversity of thought. However, what can not be sacrificed in the name of tolerance is safety and basic human dignity. If travel is a requirement to participate in our community — and you can’t be a World Barista Champion if you don’t attend the World Barista Championship — then we must develop a system for decision-making that prioritizes inclusion. Inclusion and equality aren’t just about making something technically possible: they’re about improving opportunities for everyone, especially under-represented groups. The Dubai decisions run counter to that. The choice of many potential host cities would run counter to that. Making a transparent, decision-making system that is genuinely trying to be inclusive will better serve the SCA’s mission and membership. If the SCA is unable to do this, I’m afraid I am unable to support the organization.

Thank you for reading and respectfully,
Katie Carguilo