I’ve always been a coffee shop fanatic. I love the smell of freshly-brewed coffee, the background noises of people chatting, and the sights of the beautiful drinks being made. While I loved coffee shops, I never saw myself working at one.
However, this past summer I found myself strapping on an apron and grinding espresso beans. It was the best job I’ve ever had and it taught me a lot. Here are 9 things I learned while working in a local coffee shop.
1. What exactly goes into a Latte
…and a cappuccino, and a machiatto, and an americano, etc. When I started learning how to make the drinks, I realized that I had no idea what I had been ordering at coffee shops. I thought that they were these complicated drinks, but in reality they are all similar and simple.
Usually they are some form of espresso, milk, and flavoring. The difference between the drinks isn’t what’s in them exactly, more, how you prepare them.
2. How to Deal with the “Coffee Snobs”
You can spot them a mile away. Trying to interest them in the drink of the day or a lavender latte is hopeless. These aficionados come prepared with their questions about where the coffee beans come from, how they were roasted, and the steps we take to prepare the espresso.
Overall, while these people are sometimes difficult to deal with, one can’t blame them for being passionate.
3. How to multitask
When there is a cappuccino, an iced vanilla latte, and a dark chocolate mocha to make, you have to learn those multitasking skills fast. Many of the drinks have the same or similar steps, so you learn how to pull multiple espresso shots and measure out double proportions so you can quickly and efficiently make the drinks.
4. There’s a coffee drink for everyone
If I had a dime for every time a customer asked for a “coffee drink that doesn’t taste like coffee.” For those who don’t like the taste, but need an extra pep in their step, there’s drinks for them. Try a frozen blended drink, those will often mask the taste of espresso more than hot drinks.
Syrups are listed up on the menu for a reason, don’t be afraid to ask the barista about different flavors. Most baristas will love to tell you the best flavor combinations.
5. People love Starbucks
If you have worked in a local coffee shop, you know the pain of a customer ordering a “venti” drink. However, you also know that it is often pointless to correct them and to just pull out the large cup.
Although “Frappuccino” is a word and drink created by Starbucks, that doesn’t stop customers from ordering them at other coffee shops. Most places will have their own name for frozen blended drinks.
Usually we baristas won’t mind you using Starbucks lingo here and there. Just don’t get mad when we can’t make a Pumpkin Spice Latte.
6. A little tip can go a long way
Working in the service industry taught me how important tipping is. Some don’t see the point of it, but most baristas will go the extra mile to make sure your drink is the best it can be.
Next time you go to your local coffee shop, take a second to give a tip, big or small, and a smile. It’ll brighten the barista’s day and maybe you’ll get a nifty latte art design in return.
7. How to avoid becoming a pretentious coffee expert
You’ll roll your eyes when customers ask obscure questions about the espresso, but when you’re the one ordering, you can’t help but ask if your iced coffee is cold brew (a superior way of making iced coffee) or not.
Once you’ve had a taste of good espresso, you’ve just gotta ask all the questions.
8. The need to let other baristas know you’re a barista
There is some sort of unspoken connection among food service industry workers, even more so with baristas. Once you understand the steps that go into making certain drinks, you can ask the right questions about them. Exchanging drink ideas and flavor combinations is one of the most nerdy coffee lover things one could do.
9. Coffee is an art form
The best part about working in a coffee shop (other than the awesome employees and drinking coffee all day) is learning how much effort is put into one beverage. Time and focus is put into each step of making the drink and the barista gets to be creative with the latte art and presentation.
Even though you’ll come home with caramel syrup on your arms and smelling like you fell into a coffee pot, working in a coffee shop is one of the best jobs you’ll ever have.