At the end of May 2018, the European coffee community descended upon Bucharest for 7th Barista Guild of Europe CoLab. As a member of the current BGE Working Group, I get to see the development of the events from the inside out, and it must be said that CoLab Bucharest was absolutely a pleasure to behold.
Bucharest had always been on my list of places to visit, and so I was really excited to learn about the passionate coffee professionals and scene that the community has been establishing across the country. We had heard much about the Romanian coffee scene through our Working Group colleague Silvia Constantin, who is the Chapter co-ordinator for the country. I had been excited to meet with the community for many months, and I smiled to see the number of satellite events right across the city that the baristas and roasters of Bucharest had in store for us. It was impossible to choose where to go!
I loved to see the atmosphere that surrounded the main lectures, which gave those who had already met on the welcome day, a chance to network and learn from our speakers, Lisanne Oonk, Ivania Calderón, Tim Wendelboe, and Marie Pohler. The three talks gave us thought provoking insights into three different regions of the industry, which were followed by interactive sessions that allowed us time to add our own thoughts to what we had been shown.
The panel was an invaluable part of my time in Bucharest, where we had the opportunity to hear from those who had been integral to the early days of Romanian specialty coffee. I think for both the local Romanian, and wider European communities, this panel discussion was a hugely informative look into the journey that the community has been on, and continues on as the industry grows.
Outside of the local competitive scene in the country's capital, it was also interesting to speak with those who had established a specialty coffee in Cluj-Napocac. It was a shame that we couldn't fit in a day trip to go out to visit! Each of the events was a brilliant moment for networking, with so many people from the local community, and even as far afield as Dubai, chatting together over a beer, or a... beer, let's be honest. We also saw some previous Camp and CoLab attendees joining us, which was a huge treat, seeing old faces mixed with the new when we hold an event.
If you're a barista reading this, then Bucharest is absolutely a destination to put on your list. The scene is bursting with character, to name a few, Bob Coffee Lab, Bandit, and First Coffee will keep you suitably caffeinated and smiling. An enormous thanks to each shop owner, coffee roaster, lecture giver, volunteer, barista, and CoLab attendee that participated in making this event such a special one.
If you're thinking of getting more involved in the community, or attending one of our events, I couldn't recommend getting stuck into this community enough. I personally started out with the BGE as a volunteer for Barista Camp 2015, and I haven't looked back. I hope that we get to meet at our next CoLab, or Barista Camp Portugal. I already heard a few Bucharest attendees were already looking at tickets, and you should definitely join us too.
-Jessie May Peters