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Last updateWed, 23 Aug 2017 8am

Opinion

The Challenges of Being a Starbucks Barista

Starbucks BaristaWhether you work for Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, or Rook, baristas know what it’s like to handle people who want “their” coffee. If you took a look behind the counter, you’d realize it’s not as easy as one might think to work in a coffee shop. It’s not simply pouring coffee from a pot and handing it off—that’s a really insulting assumption. Everything is complicated, whether you’re cleaning, making drinks, calling the line or working the register. Baristas are excellent multi-taskers, and I pity the person who thinks it’s a brainless activity to work in a coffee shop.

It will be two years in June that I’ve been a barista at my local Starbucks. In that time, I’ve learned the ins and outs of the job. For example, let’s talk about steaming milk. You probably think that one could just stick the milk under the steamer and walk away, but this is a misconception. Depending on what drink you are serving, there is an individual countdown of how long you need to hold that pitcher while keeping the steam wand just so, before you can place the pitcher down to steam until it’s the appropriate temperature. There is a huge difference between making a latte and a cappuccino, but most people do not know the distinction. Often, customers don’t even know what they want to order, and rely on their baristas for a recommendation.

Instead of ordering blindly, I suggest that you at least know flavors you like. We have all been stuck in line behind the person that has never been to a coffee shop and requires 15 minutes of guidance before placing an order. As baristas, we sigh and cringe inside, try to smile and do our job. We are here to educate. That line out the door isn’t our concern; each individual is our concern.

People get really angry about waiting on a long line, sometimes getting out of the line and cutting everyone else just to yell. But baristas are people too, and it’s a very self- centered perspective to think that we exist solely to make coffee. Dealing with impatient costumers is one of the many challenging aspects of the job. Is it really fair to go and scream when you don’t receive your drink immediately? Again, we’re people too. It kills me when some says that we’re not paying attention, or not taking enough care when fulfilling an order. It’s impossible to get across to every customer that you care about his or her order. Yes, we make your coffee and yes, we sell you our pastries or bagels, but we’re not there to be your perception of the overly peppy salesman, the one that looks more like enslaved happiness. We are respectable people who work in a job that requires us to politely and properly do our jobs and not be overly hyped work-monkeys.

So while you’re in a line, this is what we are doing behind the bar: we constantly clean, constantly move drinks and anyone who’s on register with no one helping them is responsible for a lot more moving. Any tea or food that’s ordered needs to cooked or warmed—and that’s just if you’re working on register. Those on bar having to keep the bar constantly clean. If they’re the messier type, the job becomes a multitasking position. If you’re the only one on bar, you’re running back and forth between the hot and cold bars. Also keep in mind, items will run out depending on how many customers we get. So if we get a heavy rush, items we need for every drink are going to need replenishing, and if there’s no one to grab items from the inventory, we need to stop working on drinks and get those items.

So, before you go calling this job easy, think about how hard we have to work.

PHOTO COURTESY of Vicoria Rodriguez

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