Meet Tim Sturk — AST coordinator at Barista Camp

While we are getting ready to present you our killer team of ASTs for #BaristaCampEU really soon, we already want to introduce you to a man behind the scenes: Mr. Tim Sturk. After his unforgettable experience at the inaugural Barista Camp in Greece last year, he felt inspired yet realised the challenges ASTs were facing. To help develop the educational content delivered at Camp, and ensure the integrity of SCAE's Coffee Diploma System, Tim joined our forces as AST coordinator. We're extremely grateful to have Tim on board, and sat down with him to talk AST development, CDS courses at Camp, and the barista community.

Can you tell us a little bit more about your current job in the coffee world?
I have the best job in coffee! I am the Head of Coffee Training and Development for the UK’s largest independent contract caterer (food services), BaxterStorey. My job didn’t exist 6 years ago.  I was working as a training manager providing in-house training to our management and service teams.  Coffee was an accident for me. Our CEO wanted to start a barista academy because he felt we were not doing a great job with coffee and he was very aware of the importance of coffee in our industry and within our business.
I have been very fortunate to work with some of the current stars of the European coffee community. I am an AST, have been since 2011.  I have been involved with SCAE teaching the AST program, teaching Coffee Diploma System courses across the UK and Europe.  I coach competition baristas as well as judge for the UKBC and WBC.

Tim with Estelle Bright at Barista Camp 2014. Photo by Giulia Mule

Tim with Estelle Bright at Barista Camp 2014. Photo by Giulia Mule

Why did you get involved with Barista Guild of Europe?
It was a no-brainer to me when the likes of James Hoffmann, John Gordon, Gwylim Davies and Dale Harris said they were working on a Barista Guild of Europe; long before Barista Camp was discussed.  I knew I had to be involved.  I am a trainer first and foremost, and if there was an opportunity to help the European coffee community improve through coffee, then I wanted to be a part of that in whatever capacity was available.
 
You attended Barista Camp 2014 as an AST and this year you are involved as AST Coordinator, volunteering your own time, knowledge and experience. Why?
I was given the opportunity to teach at the first Barista Camp.  I knew from the get-go that I had more to offer Barista Camp than just my training skills.  I was excited to be part of the inaugural camp, but I was already looking ahead as to how we could improve the experience for both attendees and trainers alike.  Barista Camp is a huge training challenge and requires a different approach if you want to deliver that same standard and quality education you would if you were in the comfort of your own training space teaching 4-6 delegates. Yet what Camp also gives is community: it is really exciting to contribute to, learn from and socialise with the best of the best in Europe.


BGE received some criticism about taking away business from ASTs by scaling the CDS modules to big groups and offering them at a lower price. Do you feel like this too?
No, not at all. It is easy to think like that but also slightly narrow-minded.  Firstly, as one trainer I cannot possibly meet the demand of the entire industry; let alone the demand in my own country (UK).  I believe good trainers will always be busy. What Barista Camp has done is brought 150 new people to the training market.  150 people who will need the next course, and the next course after that all the way to the Diploma level. How can that possibly be a bad thing in any market? Barista Camp accelerates the process for all of us trainers.

Taking selfies with delegates at Barista Camp 2014. Photo by Giulia Mule

Taking selfies with delegates at Barista Camp 2014. Photo by Giulia Mule

How do you see education at Barista Camp develop over the next editions?
It can only get better. We (the trainers) learned a lot from the first Camp.  That is why Barista Guild of Europe opened discussions with the trainers after receiving feedback from both the trainers and the delegates. I was one of the more vocal ASTs who voiced concerns over the integrity of the Coffee Diploma System.  I took extra measures to ensure that my 50+ delegates had all of the information they needed before they arrived at Camp.  I was aware that teaching time would be limited during camp and that it was my job as a Lead AST to ensure that my students had every opportunity to pass their written and practical tests. By sending out mandatory pre-course reading material, I was able to give my students more time with the practical exercises. My decision to do that was based on my experience as a trainer and educator.
There are some great trainers out there and we have 6 of them as leads for this year’s Barista Camp. I take my responsibility very seriously to ensure they have the resources to deliver excellent training, and that they do deliver excellent training. The goal isn’t to promise a 100% certification rate, the goal is to provide certification opportunities to 100% of attendees at Barista Camp. I believe we have put measures in place to deliver this with confidence.
As Training Coordinator I am also looking at future Camps and I see the opportunity for development of the European AST community. It isn’t every day that a trainer is given the opportunity to train groups over 10 delegates, let alone 50 at once!  This is a huge learning and development opportunity and a challenge for any trainer, even for seasoned ones like myself. Can you imagine over the next five years what the quality of training across Europe will be like when we have had dozens of trainers experienced at delivering training too large groups at Barista Camp? I can.

Thank you, Tim!