The inspiration behind this written piece discuss what is arguably one of the most important pillars of a coffee shop business – the Barista.
*This article was written for Perfect Daily Grind, a London based coffee online platform and first appeared online on the 4th of May 2015.
Que Sera Sera
Like many children, I once asked my mother what I would be when I grew up. I am almost certain that no mother, including my own, ever said to their child they would be a barista as a career choice. I cannot help but feel frustrated that a large majority of societies still do not support the idea of a career outside the ‘traditional box of career choices’. Study hard, go to University and be a Lawyer or Doctor…the same old recycled message. There are many jobs that are seen as a simple part-time job while studying or as a means to get by. Being a barista fits this profile for many.
‘Barista-ing’ is just a Part-Time job!
Throughout the various roles I have held in my career in cafes I have seen countless talented baristas simply hang up their aprons after graduating from their studies. Most of them gave me the same reason as to why they were leaving, ‘to get a full-time job that pays well with a mapped career progression’. Our culture makes us creatures of habit, this is why many follow the crowd rather than the heart, but you can feel alone in a busy crowd that doesn’t care about your passion.
I am astounded by the number of young individuals of this generation who still give into the pressure of pursuing money in a career that is devoid of their passion. Surely we can enjoy both money and happiness by taking the road less travelled. I am not alone when I say that as a Barista, coffee is my passion and my career.
Baristas do have career progression options.
A Barista is a job title that has been confined to the four walls of a café. Unfortunately many people do not realise that Baristas have other avenues they can explore within the industry. Many baristas become interested in roasting, training, managing/operating coffee businesses, compete in competitions, become judges or even Q graders.
Many world famous chefs who built their fame creating signature dishes call themselves ‘Chef’ followed by their name, yet a majority of them are not in the kitchen anymore, battling the heat and stress. Many of these chefs sit at the helm of successful restaurants. Their scars remind them of what it took to get to where they are.
Baristas who move on to other positions in the industry are no different in my opinion. They may be spending less time behind the bar, more time cupping coffee, successfully distributing coffees to other cafes or even travelling to origin rather than punching the cash register. Regardless, their original title as a barista can be worn with honour because it is where most journeys begin.
The value and meaning of the title ‘barista’ has changed significantly. A barista is not just any person who serves coffee. Only connoisseurs of coffee brewing truly wear that title.
A barista stands at the forefront where coffee meets consumer, therefore a barista has the power to educate consumers about what they are purchasing. Not just in terms of the quality of what the customer consumes, but also the power coffee has to change the lives of impoverished rural communities in coffee producing countries. When a barista knows the product they serve is ethically sourced, sustainable and is empowering the producer, they are proud to represent the coffee on behalf of its producers.
A barista is there to ensure that the consumer receives the producer’s product at its best as consistently as possible. This comes with experience, but more importantly passion. A barista’s craft is their trophy, but what they leaves in the minds of the consumer changes consumer attitudes towards coffee and how it can be an empowering commodity. Thanks to the many baristas that saw this value in themselves, the coffee industry and consumers have shifted towards a more ethical and sustainable model that benefits all parties from crop to cup.