Any barista can tell you: Making excellent coffee is a craft.
But unlike other career paths, the Twin Cities hasn’t offered much in the way of formal educational opportunities for baristas looking to hone their expertise.
That’s changing thanks to St. Paul’s True Stone Coffee Roasters, which recently opened a brand-new "coffee campus," the first of its kind in the Upper Midwest.
True Stone’s campus is one of about a dozen throughout the U.S. that's certified as a Premier Training Campus by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), and it offers all three levels of certification in the SCA’s brewing and barista modules.
In layperson language: “It’s akin to a trade school," head instructor and authorized SCA trainer Tyler Liedman explains of the accredited program. "Students are developing skills and working with experienced teachers.” The campus is set up to teach eight students at a time, which means plenty of individualized attention.
Previously, similar training was available on a far more limited basis -- according to Liedman, there may have been a single event per year in California. And unless an employer was footing the bill, hefty travel expenses put such training out of reach for many baristas.
“Now, there is more localized training across the country," Liedman says, "including the Twin Cities.”
How will this affect coffee lovers? For one, Liedman says True Stone’s campus will improve the knowledge and education of the industry, making better coffee more widely available. “Specialty coffee is still a small part of the local scene," he says, "but increased training will make an elevated coffee experience more available.”
In conjunction with the SCA-certified roasting classes offered at Mill City Roasters and community organization and leadership from specialty coffee importer Cafe Imports, True Stone’s campus is laying the groundwork to take the local specialty coffee scene to the next level. Liedman enthuses: “This is a unique thing that hasn’t existed in the Twin Cities before. It’s a first step to becoming a fully-fledged specialty coffee community.”
“Making coffee is easy," he adds. "Making good coffee is very hard. I've been working in this industry at the highest levels for years now, and I'm still blown away by the technique and nuance required to produce a single cup of good coffee … We can always learn more. We can always be better at what we do.”
More information and class dates can be found at truestonecoffee.com.