At points a professional barista, roaster, cupper, and longtime green buyer, SCAA Symposium Director Peter Giuliano knows a thing or two about professions in coffee. In fact, in a recent live Q&A session hosted by the popular social forum site Reddit (on the r/Coffee page), Giuliano says professional development for even the most professional of professionals is one of the driving forces behind Symposium, describing the event as “for industry vets who want to constantly expand their horizons.”
The r/Coffee takeover gave the Reddit community an open format for aspiring and budding coffee professionals of all kinds to pick Giuliano’s brain — and pick it they did, asking questions on Giuliano’s personal and professional associations with coffee, on what are some of the industry’s most pressing issues, and on what future coffee professions might look like.
Also, it was the Internet, so someone asked this:
Would you rather fight 100 duck sized George Howells or one George Howell sized duck?
To which Giuliano replied:
When I was 8, I was feeding the ducks at El Dorado Park in Long Beach some stale bread, and one of those ducks got inside my pants and bit me in a place I will not mention on reddit. I mention this to illustrate how deep my distrust and animus for the waddler goes. I will therefore fight ducks anywhere, anytime, and I would conscript my friend and comrade George Howell to help me defeat the six-foot-three duckbilled superboss.
The entire Q&A is worth a read (read it here), not just for Giuliano’s insight, but also for the revealing nature of the questions. These are the things people just now diving into coffee as a profession want to know. Here are just a few of the highlights:
Giuliano on what he wishes he had known when he was just getting started:
What do I wish I had known? That’s tough. I guess I would say that I wish I would have understood the importance of sustainable agriculture and trade earlier, and focused more on that element.
On how the range of coffee professions may be evolving beyond traditional roles within roasting and retail operations:
I spoke with Kim Elena Ionescu this morning, who has a very sustainability-focused coffee buying job, which is incredibly cool. I also spoke with some people at UC Davis, who are working hard to introduce a coffee science masters program. I know coffee educators, scientists, economists, and writers. It seems to be a golden age of the coffee professions, to me. That said, the big issue we need to face in the future is the effects of climate change and coffee economics at the farming level, so development people, scientists, economists, and international relations specialists will be super important in the coming years.
On his own coffee origin story:
I got my first job at a coffee shop in San Diego when another barista didn’t show up for work, and I knew the manager. He literally threw me an apron and said “can you start now”? I skipped class and have constantly worked in coffee since that day. I got inspired when, a few months later, a coworker gave me a cup of Kayumas Estate Java and said “You gotta taste this.” I can still remember how that tasted, and I got hooked at that moment; not only by the flavor but by the exotic name and the moment of connection I felt with my coworker. (I still get chills, I am not kidding you).