tips from a barista

‎”We don’t have flavored creamer because this isn’t a waiting room at JiffyLube.”

latte art

I discovered the site, Bitter Barista, this morning and it had me laughing out loud while I drank my coffee. I agree with almost every statement, but I am happy to say I have a much better attitude about working in a coffee shop than the author. I thought I’d provide some (gently put) insider knowledge to assist you in your next coffee shop order:

  1. A Macchiato, if made correctly, is a shot or two of espresso with a small amount of foam, typically served in a short ceramic cup. It is not, as Starbucks would have you believe, a double shot latte with caramel. It’s not possible to make a real macchiato in a 16 oz cup (unless you add 8+ shots of espresso, which may make you go into cardiac arrest). 
  2. If you order an Extra Hot Soy Latte, you’ll either get scalded soy milk or a regular temperature latte. Soy milk scalds at around 140 degrees. It won’t taste very good, but we’ll do it if you insist.
  3. Soy Milk doesn’t foam well, partly because it can’t be steamed for as long. If you ask for a Soy Milk Cappuccino, you’ll get either a wet cappuccino (less foam) or a latte.
  4. More foam is created as you reach maximum milk temperature (above 150 degrees). If you ask for an Extra Hot, No Foam Latte, know that you’re going against nature.
  5. To make enough foam for a Dry Cappuccino (lots of foam, very little liquid milk), the milk must be steamed first, then tapped against the counter and allowed to sit so that  the foamy air bubbles can rise to the top of the pitcher. Cappuccinos take extra time to complete, but they’re worth it. It pays to be patient.
  6. We don’t offer flavored coffee or flavored creamer because they’re gross. High quality coffee has layers of flavor notes, like wine, that come together to create a delicious, complex taste experience. We can put flavor syrup in your drink, though, so please don’t act too disappointed.
  7. Some customers ask how old the drip coffee is. I understand the concern, but the shop is typically busy enough to go through coffee in an hour or less. If you need your coffee fresh, please ask the question before you pay, then order a different drink if you’re in a hurry. We try our best to keep up with coffee demand, but if we run out or need to make a new batch, it takes almost ten minutes to complete the brewing cycle.

I really do think it’s the job of the barista, and the coffee shop, to accommodate as many specifications as possible while maintaining quality. I’m more amused than annoyed when customers make their drinks incredibly complicated or ask for things that aren’t possible. But it’d help to have basic coffee information dispersed to the wider, coffee-drinking audience. A good barista cares about both quality and efficiency, and sometimes has to strike a balance between the two to keep things running smoothly. I like my job and I like customer interaction (for the most part), so please don’t scowl at me if things don’t go your way. I really want to help you.

I’m not a seasoned veteran of the coffee shop, so if you have more advice (or need to correct some of my statements), please feel free to do so in the comments section. 

*photo source: Coffee Art

two months in C-ville

I think I’ll continue the monthly update in this fashion for 6 months. At that point, I may wrap up each month by its name rather than by how long I’ve lived in Charlottesville. To see my one month post, click here

Daniel and I by a wildflower field

This month, I (and sometimes Daniel):

  • updated my license and registration. It was surprisingly easy – I got it done in one afternoon!
  • actually started calling people my friends, to their faces
  • hung out on several occasions with some wonderful people
  • started ballet classes
  • unpacked and organized (almost) everything
  • made 4 curtains
  • bought a new mouse; we named her Chantico after the Aztec goddess of “fires in the family hearth.” Yes, we are beginning to realize we are pet rodent hoarders.
  • finished the layout and design of the dining room and craft room
  • hung up all of our artwork
  • made a connection with a local vintage shop owner
  • sold lots of great vintage on etsy and eBay
  • joined the church choir and learned how to chant the Psalms
  • ate at a delicious local pastry restaurant (3 times so far!)
  • bought a delightful vintage tea towel
  • “celebrated” my 24th birthday
  • received a twin lens reflex camera, boots, a candle, various Bakelite pieces, and more cat coins from the Isle of Man (there’s one for every year of my life)
  • ate at Red Lobster with my grandparents’ gift card (thanks, guys)
  • visited Waynesboro and Staunton
  • got significantly better at making lattes
  • took and edited photos for my workplace’s website

This month went by incredibly quickly. I’m in disbelief that it’s October already. Things have begun to take on a consistent rhythm, which is nice and makes here feel more like home. I was struck with a small existential crisis last week, however, lamenting over the fact that being an adult is often harder than it is easy, often more annoying than it is enjoyable. There are, of course, many enjoyable moments that take place throughout each day, especially working as a barista and coming in contact with so many sorts of people. But I feel like the last several years have consisted largely of missing my childhood, of envying youth and ignorance. I’m glad to be able to think critically, be aware, and join in the conversation, but it’s mentally taxing and emotionally draining. There is so much to know, to take in, to come to terms with, to change – and we either have to do something about it or waste away. It’s a burden we have to bear if we plan on being responsible, useful adults.