why we exist
Pro Baristas exists to solve two problems – the shortage of skilled coffee workers in the booming speciality sector and the desperation of unemployed young people without the skills or experience to get in the door. We're committed to the highest level of speciality coffee training (just look where our graduates work!) while insisting on opportunities for those who wouldn't normally get the chance.
Pro Baristas is one of many social projects operated by One Church Brighton, which aims to nurture people often overlooked by society. After nearly two decades of coffee work and writing, Ben Szobody founded the UK's first barista apprenticeship in speciality coffee in the century-old building where One Church incubates a range of charitable activities and public events. Andrew Tolley, a UK coffee pioneer and co-founder of Taylor St. Baristas, helped shape the project with substantial support from UCC Coffee, PACA and Small Batch Coffee. Laura Lumsden, a certified AST trainer, quickly joined the team to write an intensive curriculum and conduct pioneering training sessions that sought to deliver quality results alongside profound investment in individuals. The European Social Fund and the The Big Lottery kicked in with early investments. One Church provides the space, mentors and vision to take the project beyond just skills training.
Within a year, Pro Baristas had trained more than 100 people, from hands-on taster sessions with people lacking in confidence to advanced certificate courses with ambitious career seekers intent on advancing in the field. We now engage more than 250 people each year. A wave of additional support has come from CriSeren Foundation and The Goodall Foundation to expand the concept, share it with others and develop financial sustainability. We provide training for the YMCA Downslink Group, Whitehawk Inn, LVS, St John’s College, and Jobcentre Plus while working with Falcon Coffees, Square Mile Coffee, Espresso Solutions, Gnarled Apple Productions, HasBean, the Speciality Coffee Association, Coffee Doctor, BUNN and Victoria Arduino, as well as dozens of other coffee businesses.
Ultimately, we aim to connect unemployed people with productive, satisfying opportunities. These include our own pop-up coffee bars at a local farmers market, within our city centre venue, in our forthcoming training cafe and around the Sussex with a Piaggio mobile unit.
Ben has worked with and written about coffee for nearly 20 years, first as an avid hobbyist and later as a professional. He also has 15 years' experience in political journalism in the U.S. and co-publishes Longberry, an occasional journal of coffee.
Ben launched Pro Baristas in the One Church collaborative space as one of many experiments in engaging with groups of vulnerable people in Brighton. With this project, he's interested in provoking the coffee industry to invest in communities, opening doors for the disadvantaged and proving it's possible to brew uncompromisingly delicious coffee while remaining profoundly accessible.
Laura is an Authorised SCA Trainer, delivering certified industry courses, shaping the year-long apprenticeship and developing new types of coffee curriculum for Pro Baristas. She is also head of training for Small Batch Coffee Roasters in Brighton.
Laura is crazy about coffee and a self confessed coffee nerd, yet has no time for coffee snobbery! She is equally passionate about customer service and loves working with people in a warm, inviting way. She loves to get trainees excited about coffee and hospitality, demonstrating how this can be a great career.
Xavier is a veteran of the UK's first pre-industrial restaurant and graduate of the inaugural Professional Barista Apprenticeship in Speciality Coffee. Homeschooled from the age of 6 and involved in a London homeless project from the age of 12, he is inspired by the concept of opportunity for all. He has also set up a not-for-profit media production organisation that shoots films on sustainable equipment. He might also be the youngest Authorised SCA Trainer in the U.K.
Xavier brings all of his enthusiasm and experience to the role of engaging and overseeing the development of Brightonians who find themselves in challenging circumstances. He oversees Bloom and our pop-up training coffee bars for the public, whilst thinking constantly about workflow.