The Constant Struggles of Barista Life
For the past four years I’ve been paying my way through college with a part-time, and full-time, job as a barista in my hometown; and I love it. Always have, and probably always will. But, like many jobs, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Although the people I work with are great and most of the customers are the highlights of my day (which might be a ten hour shift) you always get those bastards who come in and wreck your day. The tips and minimum wage barely make up for it, but if you love coffee you’ll never be happier in any job when you’re working in a place that makes great espresso coffee. Still, there’s the eternal struggles that every barista has to deal with on a daily basis, from opening at the crack of dawn, until last orders when its dark out. Thankfully coffee provides us with enough energy to get through it all and repress the frustration. Plus you’ll have plenty of co-workers to vent to about the dry cappuccino lady who will never let you forget the time you forgot that she doesn’t take chocolate powder on her coffees (M I’m thinking of you) and her drinks will never be hot enough. But then the americano guy, or triple shot skinny latte lady, will come in and be lovely and friendly so they makes up for the rest of the crap. Almost.
The Big Order.
You’ll be having a quiet enough morning, everything will be going smoothly then suddenly someone comes in with the most complicated order: ‘Can I get a skinny hot chocolate with no marshmallows cream instead, a skinny decaf cappuccino, a regular latte, a decaf latte with an extra shot and a single shot espresso’. No two drinks the same and having to use a million jugs just to satisfy this one person. And of course while you’re in the middle of filling their order a queue starts forming out the door. There’s only one barista and one coffee machine. Dafuq am I meant to do! Panic stations, your day is now ruined. Plus, who gets an extra shot of decaf? What is even the point?
‘Can I have a Caramel Venti Frappucino?’
I’m sorry, what? Does it say Starbucks on the sign outside? No? If you wanted to order something that Starbucks offers, go to Starbucks. We have small, medium or large. I know that may sound confusing to someone who might be used to having a Starbucks nearby but what people need to understand is that every barista has their own style – much like chef’s do. Starbucks do their own drinks, and some of their drinks are great but every coffee shop is different. Maybe try looking at the menu? That way you might not piss off your barista so much that they sabotage your drink by using decaf instead of regular coffee, or full fat milk instead of skimmed. Not that I would every do that…maybe.
Customers not understanding what they are ordering.
Having to explain the difference between a latte and a cappuccino makes me want to scream. I understand that not everyone just naturally knows this but having the same argument with the same person every week about the differences between the two can understandably infuriate me. Granted this particular person asked for an americano and expected a cappuccino so I guess I was destined to fail them anyway. We also had a ‘discussion’ between the differences between a Pavlova dessert and a meringue – a pavlova has a meringue base with cream and fruit. Someone hold me back.
‘Can I get that extra hot?’
Do you have any temperature receptors in your mouth? Sometimes I genuinely wonder this about my customers. How have they not burned off their taste buds by now? You could be steaming the milk for a good three minutes and have it boiling over the edge and it still would not be hot enough for them. And for those customers who constantly find their drinks to be too hot and request another, why can’t they just wait for it to cool down? No one wastes a coffee and everyone gets what they want. But of course if they do want a replacement, guess who gets the extra coffee? Probably the kitchen staff as you’re already in the middle of your second cup.
Jealousy of Latte-Artists.
Like many baristas I enjoy watching those amazing artists do their stuff and can feel the burning shame in my gut when my own doesn’t measure up. When it does go well of course we need to photograph it and share it around, to the annoyance of the customers. Most of whom would be more annoyed if they didn’t get any design. It doesn’t take ten seconds, calm down.
Injuries and messes.
You come home covered in coffee grinds and small cuts that you haven’t a clue how you got. Your hands will be covered in small burns from the head filters and the steamer. You’ll have splashes of steamed milk in your hair and on your chest. Your once dainty and sweetly feminine soft hands are now covered in callouses from the head filters and the burns. Your hands will look as hardy as a carpenters, as hard, calloused and scarred. The sooner you accept it, the less and less it will bother you until one day you honestly don’t care anymore. That’s just the way things are.
Becoming an addict.
It can happen slowly, as it did with me, or within a day’s work. Arguably, it is impossible to work in a coffee shop and not be over-reliant on the product your selling. Before I worked as a barista I never drank coffee. To be honest I thought it tasted absolutely rank, it smelled nice and had that aura of being ‘cool’ but I would not touch the stuff. Then I went to Italy and had ‘proper’ coffee and once I returned everything changed. I have cut down from the six cups I used to have a day to maybe around one. They were fidgety and sleepless times, but i just can’t quit the stuff, and why would I want to? There’s no going back now I have acquired the taste for coffee, its a glorious energy providing warming drink of the gods. It is the fuel of college all-nighters and the saviour of awkward study group sessions.
The Macchiato-Dry Cappuccino Debate.
Starbucks have ruined the concept of macchiatos. A macchiato is a two shot espresso with foam on top. It literally means ‘stained’ in Italian, you know the guys who invented the stuff? Starbucks have created their own style of macchiatos that are similar to dry cappuccinos. And seeing as Starbucks are the most well known coffee houses in the world everyone expects their version when they order a macchiato and are completely pissed off when they get a tiny cup of foamed milk stained espresso. Again, please refer to the coffee menu.
Mixing up orders.
‘Can I have a latte with extra foam? Like literally all foam? I’m a bit iffy with lactose.’ Sorry to burst your presumptuous bubble but that’s a cappuccino mate. ‘Can I have a cappuccino with no milk and all foam?’ Again, sorry to break this to you but the foam is milk. What did you think it was, white water? If you’re lactose intolerant and want more foam than milk you’re still consuming milk. Your stomach will still be annoyed with you, and so am I. You deserve whatever discomfort you get.
People can be very particular about what milk goes into their coffee. Like aggressively particular: ‘I want skimmed milk, not low-fat’, are the differences really that obvious in the long run? Isn’t having a large skinny mocha with an extra shot of caramel syrup kind of redundant? I doubt the calories you’re missing out on in the milk will counteract the ones you’ll consume with the syrup, I’m just saying. But I guess if you’re willing to pay for the extras I willing to let you slide on your ‘diet’.
Servicing the Machine.
This is your money maker, your crown jewel. If the coffee machine breaks down, you break down. I had a scary experience over the weekend when I tried to change the time on the coffee machine ( clocks went back in Ireland), and I accidentally changed the setting on the amount of water put out in espressos, to no water. I’m not sure how I did it, but I did. Just then I got an order for take-away coffees. The last time I felt panic like that was when I accidentally permanently deleted an essay on John Milton forty-five minutes before deadline. Good thing the one shot option still worked, so I managed to let the customers go happy and give myself time to fix the machine. Thanks to free internet and Google. Honestly, I love the espresso machine at work. I miss it, I’ve grown an extreme attachment to it that may or may not have something to do with my lingering addiction to the brown stuff. So I genuinely enjoy cleaning and servicing the machine, even if it does take forever.
The Customer-Service Smile.
No matter what is going on, we managed to keep that smile plastered across our faces. Hungover and doomed to smell burnt coffee granules all day? No problem keep smiling. Customers being genuine and unrelenting pains in your ass? No big deal, keep smiling. Coffee not warm enough, again? How about I throw it at you and see if its warm enough? Nope, repress it all and keep smiling.
It’s actually the best…
I once worked with a girl whose mantra was that everyone should work at least once in the service industry, and I agree. You learn how to be modest, polite and not take everything so seriously. Most customers come into the place already in a bad mood and looking to vent on someone, sometimes that person is you. You’ll develop a thick skin and an appreciation for simple acts of kindness, like the importance of saying please and thank you. If everyone learned how to be humble and friendly, in spite of conditions to the contrary, wouldn’t the world be a better place. Plus you get free coffee, what’s not to like?
Sourced from collegetimes.com