Ever wonder what it would be like to work at an independently-owned coffee shop? From the chemistry-level techniques, to the hipster-esque wardrobe that everyone behind the counter seems to be sporting, being a barista has a special glamour to it.

That is until you spill a whole vat of hot coffee on yourself. Trust me, it happens.

I, my friends, am one of those baristas, and I am here to tell you a little bit about the newest and greatest coffee shop to hit Figueroa: Cups Coffee. After taking over Seattle’s Best this past August, Cups Coffee has opened its doors and hired a whole slew of USC students. More importantly, the shop has started pumping us all full of caffeine to get us through those midterms and finals.

As a barista over at this fine establishment since this past September, I have a different perspective than the average customer. Sure, I could tell you that the product is great; that the crema atop the espresso is luscious. But anyone who walks in and tries Cups out could tell you that.

As a barista, I can tell you that you never remember customer names, but you always connect a face with a drink. The blonde girl wearing track shorts and a neon workout tank… she gets an iced earl grey every time, without fail. I can also tell you that over at Cups Coffee we will make anything – and I mean anything – you crave.

As a barista, I also get a lot of strange questions and orders… word to the wise: if you aren’t sitting in a Starbucks, there is no such thing as a Frappuccino. We also don’t have talls, grandes or ventis (which all mean large, by the way). Another tip… large cappuccinos really aren’t a thing, and will make your barista a little bit angry inside (you try steaming 24 ounces of milk without scalding yourself).

Lastly, as a barista at Cups, I can tell you that I have the best bosses in the world. Flexible with hours, generous with the employee free food and always ready to help you improve your barista skills, I couldn’t ask for better. More importantly, great bosses make for great customer service.

Coffee Shops by USC

Photo by Ashley Seruya.


But onto the product. Don’t love coffee? Well, first, you should give Cups’ Coffee a try. We brew Groundwork, a local and organically produced coffee bean that may just make you consider converting. If you’re still not convinced, my fellow Cups baristas and I have concocted some very special non-coffee drinks. Our chai latte, arguably the most popular item on the menu, gets an Ashley-twist when you combine a heaping scoop of the Tiger Chai mix and just a dash of the Green Tea version. Combine with almond milk (yes, we have almond milk, soy-haters and lactose free rejoice) and, wallah… pretty magical.

Coffee Shops by USC

Photo by Ashley Seruya.

On the subject of milk. Steaming milk is hard. You don’t realize how delicate a process it is until you stick that steam wand into your cup of milk for the first time and all you end up with is flat, thin disappointment. I myself spent my first few weeks at Cups learning how to properly steam milk and make sure it had that velvet soft quality that any coffee connoisseur would appreciate – because if that drink isn’t perfect, it isn’t served. The secret is in the sound: a soft hiss guarantees the perfect foam.

Ultimately, that is what Cups Coffee is all about: quality. Who can argue with that?