Confessions from Baristas

BY: Shannon Jewitt |Feb 12, 2015
Confessions from Baristas

The average American makes about 275 yearly trips to the café on the corner. That’s 275 yearly interactions with a barista whose name you may or may not know. But while you may not know much about your local barista, chances are they know a lot about you, including what type of milk you like and how often you wear sweatpants in public.

In an effort to learn what makes these beverage purveyors tick—and what ticks them off—we spoke with baristas at chain and specialty shops throughout the country.

They’re Passionate About What They Do

“There are barista jobs where you just kind of push buttons and get a paycheck. Then there are more career-oriented barista jobs.” – Chris

“In actuality, there’s so many parts that come into play [when making coffee]. To make really good espresso shots, you have to know your coffee. … We weigh how much espresso we’re putting in the portafilter. We check the temperature of the machine. We’re timing it.” – MaryBeth

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“I don’t think a lot of people realize the baristas, at least in my experience, are very intelligent, cool people. And it’s just a fun job that attracts a smart group of people.” – Jessica

“I think one of the most common misconceptions about baristas (currently) is that we're all jerky hipsters. I don't own a fixie. I wear contacts because I'm too vain to wear glasses. I don't listen to music exclusively on vinyl. I'm not working in coffee shop to boost my ‘indie cred.’ I'm here because I like coffee, and I like meeting different people.” – Dawn

They Share a Common Enemy

“The [drink] I hate to make the most: anything blended.” – Jimmy

“I hate making smoothies.” – Claire

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They Remember the Good Stuff

“I also had a guy, who, he’s one of my last customers, and we’re locking up at night and he’d walk through the store and gather up all the other customers’ newspapers and take them with him to recycle.” – Jessica

“There’s this one guy who was studying for a medical-school exam. He was there every day all day for months. He would always open a tab when he got there and leave a really nice tip when he left. He bought Christmas cards for everyone and learned everyone’s names.” – Chris

… But Also the Bad

“I once had a customer call, introduce himself as a ‘regular customer that visits our establishment every morning,’ and then proceed to ask what the specials were for the restaurant next door to the shop. He accused me of lying when I said I wasn't sure and threatened to have me fired when I suggested it may be easier to call the restaurant directly. To this day, I'm not quite sure why he expected me to know.” – Dawn

“Somebody wanted me to throw espresso shots into an orange juice. … It’s just something that still haunts me. I wake up at night thinking about it.” – Jimmy

They Can Tell If You’re Clueless or a Coffee Connoisseur

“If someone comes in and orders a shot of espresso, a cortado, and a traditional cappuccino from me, I’m like, ‘Are you in coffee?’ I’ll ask that.” – MaryBeth

“If somebody asks for an expresso, like with an ‘X’ in it, that’s a good indication that they don’t know much about coffee.” – Chris

“I always kind of get a laugh when people order black coffee with cream in it.” – Jessica


Friendship Is the Key to Freebies

“We don’t react too well to people coming in and noticeably fishing for free stuff.” – Jessica

“[My favorites are] regulars that come in and know your name, know when you’re going on vacation and are gonna ask you how your weekend was.” – MaryBeth

“As the saying goes, you catch more flies with honey.” – Dawn

No, They Aren’t Intentionally Messing Up Your Drink

“If I know your drink, it either means that I like you or I absolutely hate you.” – Jimmy

“I would never intentionally mess up someone's drink, especially a difficult customer. My main goal is to get those tough customers in and out as fast as humanly possible. The typical difficult customer has no issue complaining if their drink isn't just right. So if I messed it up, I can put money on that person coming back inside and demanding a new drink.” – Claire

They’re Minding Your Manners—Even If You’re Not

“I know it's inconvenient, but step outside to have a [phone] conversation. It's just good manners. There are other people there, and they didn't come in to listen to you having a conversation about your mom's cat.” – Dawn

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“Please and thank you. If you’re in the café and you’re hanging out, listen to music, use our WiFi, whatever. Be respectful. Treat it like your own living room.”
– Jimmy

“Don’t take up too much space. If you’re at a table that’s meant for more than one person, don’t spread out. … Sometimes people like to take one chair for themselves, one chair for their bookbag or laptop bag, another chair to put their feet up.” – Jessica

“Can you not sleep here?” – MaryBeth

“Wear pants that are not pajamas or sweat pants. A lot of people come in their pajamas.” – Chris

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