Easter still life

ea4I have never been more pleased with a photograph. Steam rises from a hot cup of coffee in the late afternoon sun on Easter. I had the most pleasant day yesterday; it couldn’t have been lovelier. Cool breeze, hot sun, open windows, exposed wood beams, a home cooked meal, and good conversation.

I leave you with a verse from one of my favorite Easter songs, Now the Green Blade Riseth:

When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,
Thy touch can call us back to life again;
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

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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

on coffee shops

coffee shop

Coffee shops are a necessary social institution. They’re a place for meeting, reuniting, flirting, reading, studying, napping, meditating, observing, and imbibing.

I feel immensely grateful to work in one. I eavesdrop on brown-nosers, innovators, hobbyists, gossipers, and over-sharers. I see joyful reunions and daily fights between friends over who gets to pay for whose latte. I meet local business owners, professors, students, artists, volunteers, and retirees. I see kindness and generosity extended. I see community at work. And I get to be a part of it.

Today I met a new friend at a local coffee shop. Although the ambiance differed from the one where I work, the purpose was the same. Coffee shops create an open atmosphere for free expression, a safe space for complaining, intervening, and frivolous merry-making alike.

My daily work is addictive. That we can unite under the banner of espresso – republican and democrat, Christian and Atheist, heterosexual and homosexual, scholar and athlete, male and female – fills me with joy.

Diplomats should consider conducting their meetings exclusively at coffee shops.

good morning

white mums chocolate croissant mumsPicked up a bouquet of white and yellow mums and a box of chocolate croissants from Trader Joe’s on Friday. Enjoying them both – and the light streaming in from our wood-framed window – this morning.

The first week of 2013 was wonderful and the second one is off to a good start.

 

spiced chocolate cafe au lait

A simple way to (literally) spice up your morning coffee.

If I had a milk steamer, this whole process would be legit, but since I don’t have one (yet), I have to get creative to make foamy, steamy drinks at home. I also don’t own an espresso machine. Becoming a barista has shown me the error of my ways: I can’t call a blended coffee beverage a latte or mocha because those terms apply to espresso only. Therefore, today I bring you a simple recipe for Spiced Chocolate Cafe Au Lait (coffee and steamed milk) instead.

What you’ll need:

  • Ground medium or dark roast coffee
  • Ground Nutmeg
  • Ground Cinnamon
  • Chocolate Syrup
  • A blender or Magic Bullet
  • Milk
  • Whipped Cream or Marshmallows (optional – clearly, I didn’t add any)

Directions:

  1. Brew enough coffee for one mug.
  2. Pour desired amount of milk into microwave safe container and heat for 1 or 2 minutes until hot.
  3. Blend coffee, heated milk, 2-3 tablespoons of chocolate syrup, 2 shakes nutmeg, and 3 shakes cinnamon in a blender or Magic Bullet for 15 seconds or until desired amount of foam is created.
  4. Pour into your favorite mug and enjoy.