So you’re really into coffee?
You love the smell, the taste, the community, the perfect balance of art, science and magic that goes into brewing each and every cup? Coffee is your true passion and you want to turn it into your career but unfortunately there are just a few obstacles like bills that need paying, children to support and mortgages to keep on top of. Face it, being a barista (even a very good one) doesn’t always cut it when it comes to real world expenses. Guess you’ll just have to settle for a boring old office job to make ends meet. Wrong! Coffee is the second most widely traded commodity in the world after oil. The number of career paths is extensive and varied; much broader than the standard barista path that so many view as a ‘student’ job. Here are just some of the options that are open to you:
The behind-the-scenes magician whose job it is to coax those elusive floral and blood orange tasting notes from the humble green coffee. This is a career path for people who love the science aspect of coffee. If collecting large amounts of data, translating it into practical roast profiles and vigilantly analysing (and tasting) the results sounds like your sort of thing then this could be the job for you.
So you’ve been making coffee for a while but you’re a bit over the fast-paced environment and constant pressure of a busy café? Maybe becoming a barista trainer is right up your alley. You need to be a very social individual to succeed in this role. Being able to engage with students and impart your valuable wisdom effectively is paramount. Also, if you’re the sort of person that can make your classes fun (nobody likes a boring teacher) then you might just be perfect for this role.
This sounds like a particularly boring title but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Coffee roasting companies often employ seasoned professionals to act as liaisons to the cafes (accounts) they supply coffee to. An account manager can be responsible for a great number of things from quality assurance and training to running out spare deliveries to cafes that are running low on coffee. If you like your job to be varied and have a different experience every day of the week then this could be your ideal job.
Green Coffee Buyer
For many in the industry this is the ultimate job. Green coffee buyers are paid to travel the world tasting coffee. Yes, that’s right, this is a real job. Buying green coffee entails acting on behalf of a broker or roaster and negotiating the purchase of raw coffee at origin based on the quality of the cup. If your dream is to travel the world, experience new cultures, drink amazing coffee AND get paid to do it then maybe you should consider this as a career goal.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Coffee is a massive industry and there are many different roles within it. But how does someone go about getting one of these mythical jobs? These jobs are rarely advertised and even when they are they usually require a large amount of experience. I’m not going to lie, it isn’t easy and these jobs are few and far between; but the best jobs in any industry are usually the hardest to get.
The best advice I can offer is to put yourself out there (and I don’t mean post something on a Facebook forum). The best things to do when you’re looking to advance your career in coffee are: get in touch with your roaster, go along to industry events and expand your network of industry contacts. Just like many industries, it is as much about who you know as what you know. Don’t be afraid to start on the bottom rung. If a roaster is looking for someone to pack coffee or take deliveries, don’t turn your nose up at it, this is your foot in the door.
For too long coffee has been viewed as something of an in-between job; a filler for while you study or travel. The industry has come along in leaps and bounds in only the last few years. Now is the time to jump on board and seriously consider turning your passion into a career.