Established in January 2017 as a result of the unification of the Specialty Coffee Association of America and the Speciality Association of Europe, the SCA combines rich histories on both sides of the Atlantic and around the world. 

History of the Heritage Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA)

Established in 1982 by a small group of coffee professionals seeking a common forum to discuss issues and set quality standards for the specialty coffee trade, the SCAA is now the world's largest coffee trade association with nearly 2,500 company members. SCAA members can rightfully be credited for much of the growth and success the specialty coffee industry has experienced over the past twenty-five years. We invite you to view some of our most defining moments:

History of the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE)

The SCAE was formed at a meeting of representatives of the speciality coffee community and coffee enthusiasts held in London on the 5th June 1998.

The initial aim was to gather 50 committed individual and companies who would be prepared to become "Pioneer Members" who would each contribute €500 as seed money to get the Association off the ground. We succeeded, and the Association was able to get off to a magnificent start with everyone working on a volunteer basis. The first Board of directors was appointed on the recommendation of the President Alf Kramer, but it was emphasised at the time that Board meetings would be open to all members who wished to participate.

The formal structure of SCA was put into place on the 10th August 1998, when the Registrar of Companies at the UK Companies House registered "Speciality Coffee Association of Europe" as a Private Limited Company under UK law.


A timeline of the many years of discussions that led to the unification of the two heritage associations to form the global Specialty Coffee Association in January 2017.

Engaging Internationally

  • 2001: SCAA forms official alliance with Speciality Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE) to co-launch the World Barista Championship. The competition evolved into a co-owned company, World Coffee Events, in 2010.
  • March 2011: The SCAA Board of Directors forms an ad hoc committee to explore increased international engagement.
  • October 2012: SCAA and SCAE Education Leaders meet to discuss possible unification of SCAA & SCAE Education Programs.
  • March 2014: SCAA and SCAE Boards meet informally in Seattle at SCAA Expo to discuss the relationship between the two organizations.

Phase One: Exploratory Talks

  • June 2014: SCAA and SCAE Executive Committees meet in Rimini, Italy to begin a process of exploring ideas and possibilities about alignment.
  • February 2015: A second meeting between Executive Committees of the two boards takes place in London.
  • May 2015: A working group is formed by the two boards and meets in London. This group recommends that the boards seek a consulting group, and both boards agree.
  • June 2015: 150 SCAA elected leaders (Board of Directors, Council Members & Committee Chairs) as well as SCAA and SCAE staff meet in Atlanta, GA at the 2015 SCAA Leadership Summit to explore the idea of a unified organization. In a professionally facilitated meeting, the community engages in a 2-day exploratory session into the possible benefits and challenges a unified organization would present to its members. A clear path forward is identified as having four phases: Exploratory Talks; a Feasibility Study; Planning; and Implementation.
  • August 2015: SCAA and SCAE, through a well-defined, open proposal process, select Heart + Mind Strategies as the consultancy firm to lead the feasibility study.

Phase Two: Feasibility Study

  • September 2015: SCAA and SCAE boards and staff meet with consultants to begin feasibility study.
  • September 2015: Executive Director Ric Rhinehart issues a letter on collaboration to SCAA membership outlining the historical steps and decisions that have led to exploratory work as well as an overview of the outcomes of the meeting in Atlanta. This letter was sent directly to all SCAA, Barista Guild and Roasters Guild members via email, and can be read on The Specialty Coffee Chronicle here.
  • October 2015: SCAA, in conjunction with SCAE, launches a survey to their respective memberships seeking member input on the possibility of a unified organization. The survey is deployed for 2 weeks, and some results of the survey can be viewed here.
  • November 2015: The working group continues to progress the feasibility study with the consultants, utilizing survey data to inform the board.
  • December 2015: At a meeting in New York City on December 7, directors from both SCAE and SCAA were presented with a comprehensive feasibility study by consultants Heart + Mind Strategies detailing the possibilities, advantages, and challenges of unifying the two organizations. In addition, the consultants proposed a possible structure for a unified organization, and a potential roadmap to a global speciality coffee organization. This information and proposal were presented to the board of the SCAE on December 10, and will be presented to the SCAA board on January 14. The two boards will then consider next steps, keeping the interests of their respective memberships and the global specialty coffee community in mind.
  • January 2016: Following a vote in December by the SCAE Board of Directors and January by the SCAA Board of Directors, the decision was taken to proceed with the unification process and move towards creating a Preliminary Agreement between the two associations.
  • March 2016: The Preliminary Agreement was reviewed and approved by both Boards of Directors and a summary will be presented to interested SCAE and SCAA members for their consideration. Informational sessions have been scheduled for members to learn more and a vote by both memberships will take place shortly.
  • April 2016: An SCAA/SCAE Member Forum has been scheduled for April 16th at 3pm at the 28th Annual SCAA Expo in Atlanta, Georgia. As part of an ongoing commitment to transparency, this informational session will outline the process of unifying, and will aim at informing the members who will ultimately need to ratify this action. Also, we’ll explore how unification will enable us to combine financial and intellectual resources to invest more heavily in research, education, and sustainability, and which will in turn translate to more programs, events, and services for our members. A prospectus document has been made available for member review – click here to download a copy. If you have questions or feedback, we encourage you to attend the Member Forum or email feedback@scaa.org.

Phases Three and Four: Decision, Planning, and Implementation

  • May 23, 2016: SCAE announces the results of their membership vote; with the majority voting in favor of proceeding with unification. SCAA President Ben Pitts sends out an email to SCAA members with more information on the next steps in the unification process.