It's 7:00 am and you're hardly capable of making any rational money-spending decisions, yet there you are at your local coffee house, wallet in hand, face-to-face with the person at the register. You freeze. There's a line behind you. The pressure is impossible—what does your body need at this hour to get you through the rest of your day? You blurt out the first thing you can read on the menu and hope it's good. The next person steps up and the cycle continues.

I see this happen every single morning. It can be taxing and stressful to navigate through a crowd of people, watching through crusty eyes as your drink goes through a line of slow and tedious preparation. I can tell you from experience it's more stressful for the barista who is trying to start your day off right. So from my side of the bar to yours, here is a guide to help you survive the morning rush with as little stress as possible. 

When in a Hurry, Black Coffee.

This is a rule to live by. If it's one of those mornings where you run out of the house with wet hair, you're not sure whether you remembered to put on underwear and the entire world is going to hell, just order a cup of coffee. At most coffee shops, the person taking your order will get you drip coffee right away, whereas other drinks will go into a line on the espresso bar and you'll end up in a line while usually just one or two people are in charge of preparing them. This can be a major hold up if you're in a hurry. Drip coffee is a sure fire way to get in and get out, and there is most always free milk and sugar available to dress your coffee however you want in order to, well, forget that you're drinking coffee. 

Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee

If you'd rather slurp your magic bean juice over ice, make sure you can differentiate between the two most common types served in the industry. Iced coffee is literally just hot house brew coffee poured and shaken over ice to make it cold. Cold brew is made from a concentrate called Toddy, which is created by steeping coffee grounds in room temperature water over 12-24 hours. This way, the flavor is extracted through time rather than heat, making for a stronger coffee flavor. Cold brew is usually more expensive than regular iced coffee because most shops buy their Toddy from their bean distributor. 

There Is No Espresso In a Chai 

espresso, tea, herb, coffee
Preet Bhaidaswala

That's why people order them dirty. If you love the taste of a creamy chai latte, but find it doesn't give you that perk that a traditional latte or cappuccino does, it's because they don't come with espresso by default. Adding a shot or two (or four) will provide you with enough caffeine to get you through the morning while maintaining that rich sweet and spicy taste. 

While most coffee shops make chai with a sugary powder or concentrate, these are major deviations from traditional Indian Masala Chai tea, which has enough caffeine in itself to keep you going through the day without a painful afternoon crash. If you want to save yourself upwards of $5 and get the real chai experience, check out this easy recipe

No, It's Not Like the Starbucks Macchiato

chocolate, mocha, milk, cappuccino, espresso, coffee
Dana Manzi

I have this conversation all the time with customers. Starbucks has somehow taken a traditional European drink and turned into a caramel calorie fest. A traditional macchiato is 1-2 shots of espresso with a dollop of steamed milk. They are just a little bigger in size than a regular shot and a great option if you don't want to carry around a drink all day. 

Patience Is a Virtue  

espresso, croissant, coffee
Angela Brittain

Customers hardly notice when they get their drink in less than a minute or two, but after waiting longer than that they almost always grow antsy. Fear not, for if your barista is taking their time to prepare your drink, it means three things:

1. They're actually measuring out proper proportions (sauces, powders, ice, etc.) to make sure you're getting exactly what you ordered. During a rush, a lot of baristas haphazardly throw together drinks just to get through the line quicker. The idea behind this is so customers won't complain about the wait, but if they're not complaining about that then they will complain about the quality of their drink.

2. The espresso timing is on point. It should take anywhere from 18-23 seconds to properly extract a single espresso shot, and 23-28 seconds if it's a double shot. If the shots come out any faster than this, they can taste bitter or watery and ultimately ruin the quality of the entire drink. 

3. Your barista is steaming the milk properly. Steaming milk requires perhaps the most attention during the entire process. Steam too long and the milk gets burnt. Steam too little and the drink is lukewarm. Letting in just the right amount of air determines whether you're getting a latte or a cappuccino. Think twice before you go up to the bar and "make sure you didn't miss your drink."  

Go Forth and Order

Remember that you have just as much of a right as everyone else in line behind you. Honor yourself by respecting your position in line and allowing enough time in your morning schedule to wait for your drink to be prepared. This is the way your day will begin, so you might as well make it awesome.