Camp Pull-a-Shot had its first East Coast incarnation earlier this year, and I was lucky enough to be in attendance. It was a valuable experience, and I think it is the kind of experience whose value can be different for different folks in attendance. I want to talk a little about what makes the Camp experience so awesome, I want to talk a little about how it manages to present a diverse array of value, and I want to talk about ways in which it could maybe even be improved.
First, the best thing about Camp Pull-a-Shot, and what I also find to be the crowning achievement of the vast majority of coffee events, be it local throwdowns or the USBC, is the immediate access and admission into the community, and the huge excitement boost that provides. It is easy to lose enthusiasm when you feel like progressive coffee is something you’re experiencing through blogs and Instagram; something someone else is doing, something that is happening somewhere out there. Going to CPAS is a game-changer in this way; you come to see that not only are you not on your own, but it becomes clear that the vast majority of coffee people are living in that same state, pushing the envelope in suburbs and small towns across the country. Working to prove our legitimacy is the norm, not the exception, and that realization for me was invaluable. Having that fire of enthusiasm reignited is a big deal, and is a little surprising, having been doing this for a while now.
Second, the educational opportunities are out of control. Regardless of your current situation w/r/t BGA certification, there is so much for you to learn. The schedule is packed to the gills with Level 1 & 2 programming, and you really can take huge, huge steps toward your Guild Goals in this chunk of time. For the souls willing to brave the West Virginia backcountry a day early, they were able to go from zero to IDP-and-BGA-Proctor Certified within two days. This is a good thing!
If you are considering CPAS for yourself or your employees, there are two major ways in which CPAS can offer value; Education and Access.
Education at CPAS goes far beyond the actual certification, though one should certainly not discount the value of a Level One or Level Two award; they count, and they will only increase in value as time goes on. As a Station Instructor at CPAS, while I did not learn much more about the topics at hand, I did learn a lot about teaching those topics. Station Instructing the Milk Science & Latte Art class (with Lorenzo Perkins Lead Instructing) was a standout in my mind; LP is so informed and excited about getting concepts across, I was taking as many mental notes about his presentation as I was about the material itself. As an educator, watching other educators teach the same material really helped me to broaden my own perspectives on that material, as well as adding numerous tools to my barista trainer toolbox.
There is something for everyone in terms of education at CPAS: beginning baristi can advance through the Level One Coursework. More advanced folks can engage in Level Two programming. Educators can take the IDP and become proctor certified, they can pick the brains of other educators. Roasters can learn from the folks slanging their bean. Shop owners can train their staff, or get an edge in training their staff themselves.
Access is a bit tougher to valuate. In an industry the size of ours (tiny), and the ways in which we are able to connect with one another (which are numerous and growing), means that events like these are excellent opportunities to put faces to names, to reconnect with folks from previous events, and to make yourself part of the network that is specialty coffee. Ours is an industry that is still small enough that you can approach the people whose work you admire, because they come to these events! Unlike the breakneck pace of the regional competitions or the vast busyness that is CoffeeFest, CPAS has plenty of down time, which means you really can sit and have a beer with that same dude whose blog you’ve been reading, or that young lady with the killer Flickr. There is a value there!
If you are reading this, if you are a BGA member, if you’re thinking about being a BGA member: if you have the financial capacity to go to CPAS, you should go. That’s a blanket statement, and I feel comfortable saying it. I put the whole trip on my Buffalo Bills Mastercard, and I will probably do the same thing next year. Now is the time; sock away $20 a week and you’ll have enough to go. It is an investment in yourself, and money spent on travel or education is never wasted.
Next time: Personal reflection re: CPAS & Ways CPAS can Move Forward