June 26, 2024

We're SCA Certified!

By Vantage Coffee Roasters
We're SCA Certified!

If you’re like me, coffee has become a necessary part of your day to day life. It’s ever present around us. It’s that morning pick-me-up before work or that midday boost to finish out the day. For me, it has created a delightful third place over the last few years, as I began to frequent Higher Ground Coffee Co (HGCC) and eventually Vantage Coffee Roasters (VCR). But, despite being a long-term customer for several years, I never learned much about coffee outside of these visits. Thankfully, in 2021, that all changed when I began to work for the Herrells! I quickly learned that the world of coffee is far more vast and complex than I could have imagined, and after three years of working for them, I am still learning. 

Coffee is continuing to grow in popularity all over the world, and because of this, the need for all-encompassing professionalism standards inside of coffee shops has also grown. From the bottom up and the top down, covering the quality of the coffee beans that are gathered on farms; to how they’re shipped across the world; to the environment and materials that the coffee is stored in; to the roast level and development; to how coffee is ground up and used in stores– all of these facets are taken into consideration! One organization that is internationally recognized for this mission is called the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA). This institution upholds various facilities that are licensed to train, test, and accredit baristas, roasters, and other coffee-related educators. One of the places affiliated with the SCA is First Crack Coffee in St. Louis, MO. A group of us from VCR and HGCC were recently able to go and be tested on skills such as brewing coffee, sensory evaluation, the roasting process, etc.

First Crack was incredible! Getting to apply the theories that we had been learning through their course material over the last few months, PLUS what we already knew about coffee just by having worked in the shops was so cool. The amount of coffee that we consumed over a three day period for testing is potentially incalculable, but don’t be fooled into thinking it was all fun and games! We got to experience tasting coffee that was both incredibly delicious and fragrant, as well as coffee that was tainted in some way— all in order to show that we could properly identify undesired, or desired, attributes of a pleasant coffee that could be served to customers. I mean, have you ever consumed anything that was expired and fermented? Suffice to say, it’s not ideal, and it smells like it tastes— egregious. In every sense of the word, the undesired coffee had a gnarly, sour characteristic of bad fruit that made our eyes water with and instinctively, we fought the urge to immediately spit it out. 

Overall, though, it was a great time! Getting to try coffees that we’ve never had before and seeing (and tasting) potential problems, such as fermentation, with a musty taste due to scenarios like too much moisture or poor storage environments, or an underdeveloped roast. All of these practices and tests have equipped us to work better in our stores and also in our own choices of personal consumption!

Alongside the sensorial training and testing we did, we also got to learn about sorting through green coffee and identifying defects such as insect damage, sours, withered beans, and so on! It was a pretty meticulous endeavor that required patience and attentiveness, particularly since some of those defects can be hard to detect. We learned a lot about various brewing styles, dialed in shots with the espresso machine and the grinder, which if you fail to learn, you would end up with bitter or sour coffee that does not taste good, and of course, roasting coffee.

All of this to say, it was very rewarding to see all of our hard work pay off, and to see the people I work with thrive. Our time at First Crack was inspiring, informative, and practical. Coffee is a world all on its own that has impacted history for hundreds of years, and we just happen to be alive at a time when it really seems like it’s at its peak. However, as we continue to see, the coffee world is always transforming and improving and we, along with you, thankfully, get to be a part of this journey.

This blog was written by Jeremiah Whiteman.



Below are some pictures we took while in St. Louis.