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Pro-baristas, are you jaded by your customers?
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z0mbie
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z0mbie
Joined: 26 Sep 2013
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Posted Sun Mar 16, 2014, 5:50am
Subject: Pro-baristas, are you jaded by your customers?
 

Let's see now.. I don't want to offend anyone but I think based on the topic, it may be unavoidable! lol

Like many of you, I am a self-proclaimed coffee geek. But when I go to specialty places, it seems baristas are neither friendly or interested in talking about coffee.  As much as I hate starbucks coffee, the most of the time they are pretty friendly by comparison.

Here are a couple of examples...

So I wanted to try this new specialty coffee shop near where I live..
Me: "Let's see.. I'd like a macchiato, please."
Barista:  "You do realize that is a 3 oz drink, right?"
Me: "Yes I do."   (I thought this was a specialty shop, but I guess everyone here drinks the sugary stuff...)
... so much for conversation.


And then at another specialty shop, a few weeks earlier in the bay area (shop not too busy):
Me: "Hi, can you tell me more about the roast you serving in your espresso?"
Barista: "There is no specific roast for espresso, the beans are roasted for their optimal flavor.".
Me: "I see..Actually what I really wanted to know was which roast you are using for espresso.. is it a single origin, or is it a blend?"
Barista: "It's single origin, it says so right over there." (pointing to a small marquee behind the glass display)
Me: "Right, but I wasn't sure because I noticed you using that grinder earlier for your lattes (pointing to the grinder that has a piece of tape on the hopper with the words '50% PNG/ 50% ETH, which I assume is a blend."
Barista: "Is that what you want?"
Me: "Well, just wanted to know what espresso you were going to serve me so I have a reference, I wasn't specifically asking for that..."
Barista: "So what do you want?"
Me: "I'm sorry, I was just confused because it seems you're serving a different roast for your lattes"
Barista: "We use a blend for lattes and single origin for espresso".
Me: "Got it.. it's just a bit confusing because you're sign said you used single origin for your espresso."
Barista: "Correct, we use a blend for our lattes and single origin for espresso."
Me: "hmmm okay"
Barista: "So, what can I get you??"

so much for asking questions...
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uscfroadie
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Posted Sun Mar 16, 2014, 6:56am
Subject: Re: Pro-baristas, are you jaded by your customers?
 

People throw around the term "Pro Barista" way too much.  A person pulling shots and serving drinks at a cafe does not constitute a "professional" in my mind.  However, if they compete and place in SCAA competitions, that's another story - they now have clout.
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z0mbie
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z0mbie
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Posted Sun Mar 16, 2014, 1:36pm
Subject: Re: Pro-baristas, are you jaded by your customers?
 

uscfroadie Said:

People throw around the term "Pro Barista" way too much.  A person pulling shots and serving drinks at a cafe does not constitute a "professional" in my mind.  However, if they compete and place in SCAA competitions, that's another story - they now have clout.

Posted March 16, 2014 link


You are definitely right that the term "pro" is a totally washed out term.   But technically, it's accurate if you do it for a living., regardless of how good you are at it.   I just notice that many baristas at such specialty establishments do not care to reciprocate when you show interest in coffee talk.  Seems they just prefer you order and move along.
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CoffeeRoastersClub
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Posted Sun Mar 16, 2014, 5:55pm
Subject: Re: Pro-baristas, are you jaded by your customers?
 

z0mbie Said:

Let's see now.. I don't want to offend anyone but I think based on the topic, it may be unavoidable! lol

And then at another specialty shop, a few weeks earlier in the bay area (shop not too busy):
Me: "Hi, can you tell me more about the roast you serving in your espresso?"
Barista: "There is no specific roast for espresso, the beans are roasted for their optimal flavor.".
Me: "I see..Actually what I really wanted to know was which roast you are using for espresso.. is it a single origin, or is it a blend?"
Barista: "It's single origin, it says so right over there." (pointing to a small marquee behind the glass display)

Posted March 16, 2014 link

You should have seen the look on a "pro baristas" face when I once pointed out a Peaberry bean in a mix of beans they had in a cup with pencils in it.  

Me: That's a Peaberry.  

Barista:  OHHH KAYYYYY ....

In other words he had no clue and thought I was being disgusting.

Len

 
"Coffee leads men to trifle away their time, scald their chops, and spend their money, all for a little base, black, thick, nasty, bitter, stinking nauseous puddle water." ~The Women's Petition Against Coffee, 1674

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uscfroadie
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Posted Sun Mar 16, 2014, 6:33pm
Subject: Re: Pro-baristas, are you jaded by your customers?
 

CoffeeRoastersClub Said:

You should have seen the look on a "pro baristas" face when I once pointed out a Peaberry bean in a mix of beans they had in a cup with pencils in it.  

Me: That's a Peaberry.  

Barista:  OHHH KAYYYYY ....

In other words he had no clue and thought I was being disgusting.

Len

Posted March 16, 2014 link

Len,

Great response.  What the person comes back with lets you know whether you are talking to a barista or an employee.
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TheRealScubaSteve
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Posted Sun Mar 16, 2014, 10:45pm
Subject: Re: Pro-baristas, are you jaded by your customers?
 

As someone pretty new to the coffee world, getting treated like that would have sent me right back through their doors without purchasing anything. I can sympathize with the barista's attitude of doubt (of your knowledge) given the Starbucks culture, but at the end of the day, even if you are an aggravating, clueless, and rude Starbucks customer I don't think that a business should treat a customer like they have a chip on their shoulder. It seems clear enough to me that you were looking for more information and their reluctance to answer would only make me assume that the barista did not have a clue about what they were putting in the cup.

 
"But it is not a perfect world and none of us are god-shots.  As for me, I am a little over extracted and therefore slightly bitter and my crema is thin..." -Buckley
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z0mbie
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Joined: 26 Sep 2013
Posts: 341
Location: Online
Expertise: I live coffee

Posted Mon Mar 17, 2014, 2:42am
Subject: Re: Pro-baristas, are you jaded by your customers?
 

TheRealScubaSteve Said:

As someone pretty new to the coffee world, getting treated like that would have sent me right back through their doors without purchasing anything. I can sympathize with the barista's attitude of doubt (of your knowledge) given the Starbucks culture, but at the end of the day, even if you are an aggravating, clueless, and rude Starbucks customer I don't think that a business should treat a customer like they have a chip on their shoulder. It seems clear enough to me that you were looking for more information and their reluctance to answer would only make me assume that the barista did not have a clue about what they were putting in the cup.

Posted March 16, 2014 link

yeah, as a "student" of coffee, I always want to know what I'm being served.  I don't think it is an unreasonable request.  But it seems that barista was probably annoyed by my questioning and just wanted me out of his face.   I shouldn't of even tried to explain myself.. The fact is, if you say you're going to serve SO espresso, it's assumed ordering a latte means adding milk to that espresso unless otherwise noted.      Anyway he wasn't at all an outright jerk, but he did seem annoyed I wasn't the typical customer that doesn't really care what coffee they're actually drinking.   I find this to to be a common experience in nearly all shops.   As soon as you show some level of coffee intelligence they seem to show some sort of complex.. inferiority, superiority or whatever the hell it is..
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Dayglow
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Location: Greenville, NC
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Posted Mon Mar 17, 2014, 5:20am
Subject: Re: Pro-baristas, are you jaded by your customers?
 

I have definitely noticed this trend all over the country. I think a lot of it stems from lack of quality control. An excellent coffee roaster or a coffee connoisseur may decide to open a cafe, but it may not be until well later that they find it difficult to staff with people passionate about coffee. "barista" positions in cafes typically have a high turnover due to it not being given the meaning in terms of careers it may deserve. This leads to a position of very high worker turnover as you staff yourself with students who will leave for school at some point or workers who are always looking for the next best thing. I worked with a very good roaster a number of years ago who decided to open an offsite cafe.We found this exact problem and could not keep the quality of the staff "up to snuff" enough to justify going through the effort of training only to have the new employee leave after 6mos.
I agree that those who work in the field are technically "professional baristas", but I do not think it is an acceptable title to have given in many cases. It is a title to be earned through knowledge, work, and experience. After all, driving your car at a 150mph does not make you a race car driver.
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frank828
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Posted Mon Mar 17, 2014, 11:44am
Subject: Re: Pro-baristas, are you jaded by your customers?
 

z0mbie Said:

So I wanted to try this new specialty coffee shop near where I live..
Me: "Let's see.. I'd like a macchiato, please."
Barista:  "You do realize that is a 3 oz drink, right?"
Me: "Yes I do."   (I thought this was a specialty shop, but I guess everyone here drinks the sugary stuff...)
... so much for conversation.

Posted March 16, 2014 link

this sounds extremely familiar.  i wonder why you'd be offended in any way when an employee is just trying make sure you're getting the drink you want.  you must realize, in LA and most of the US, a macchiato is still considered a large sweetened latte of some sort.  you'd be surprised how often a drink gets returned(because they were served a real macchiato) and how often after the explanation of a macchiato, the order is changed to a sweetened latte.  specialty coffee shop or not, the majority of coffee drinkers out in the wild only have seen or heard the term macchiato from the menus of the ubiquitous large 2nd wave shops.

i think your example could easily lead to a conversation about coffee.  i dont know why you stopped talking after, "yes i do."  also, what kind of conversation would you have expected from you just ordering a drink?
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GVDub
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Posted Mon Mar 17, 2014, 12:32pm
Subject: Re: Pro-baristas, are you jaded by your customers?
 

Rule #1: If the shop is at all busy, don't try and hold a coffee conversation with anyone behind the counter.

As Frank points out, most people aren't aware of what a true macchiato is, so the barista's impulse to clarify your intent is entirely understandable. Granted, if you are in fact quoting him directly, he probably could have softened it a little, but maybe the last three people who ordered macchiatos all returned them because they weren't big and sweet. .

Me, I've had nothing but good luck conversing with baristas in and around L.A. (and most other places) if the shop is not in the middle of a rush. Between the friends I've made at shops like Demitasse, Spring for Coffee, Cafecito Organico, Helio, Jones, and other L.A. shops, I feel like local coffee culture is doing pretty well.
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