Coffee has changed dramatically over the last couple decades, especially in major cities like San Francisco and New York. Starbucks introduced us to espresso and milk based drinks. Specialty coffee shops have taken these drinks to the next level, refining their taste, texture, and even appearance. Latte art would be an inconceivable concept in the mid-90s here in the states. Now, for better or for worse, there are latte art competitions that actually pretty intense.
With an industry starting to take itself more and more seriously, breaking into the world of coffee may be pretty intimidating these days to a perspective barista. So what’s the best way to get a foot in the door as a barista?
“I started as a cashier and after my shifts I’d ask if I could pull a couple shots. There wasn’t formal training back in the day to become a barista, you kind of just had to get the experience when you could. After awhile, I got moved off the cash register and was making pour over drinks. You start moving up pretty quickly if you show enthusiasm. That’s the most important part — enthusiasm. If you’re enthusiastic and have good customer service, you’ll make it just fine. The rest is just muscle memory.”
Brad doesn’t work in the coffee industry anymore, he’s a freelance designer these days. But he looks back on his days as a barista fondly.
“The best part about the job were the customers. The job could be physically demanding, but I loved the interactions with customers. Regulars were the best. I met a lot of my friends today while I was working in coffee. Customers could also be the worst part of the job, they could be frustrating at times. But there weren’t too many that pissed me off too bad. The good customers definitely overshadowed the bad ones.”
Brad also mentioned the upsides of working for a small, specialty coffee company rather than a place like Starbucks.
“When you work in specialty coffee, customers treat you more like an expert rather than just some random employee. They’ll let you know if their latte was particularly good that day and they’ll ask you questions about what you did differently. They’re interested in what you’re doing and that’s cool. Also, smaller companies are more like families. They treat you better, often paying you a better wage and offering healthcare. They actually care about your well-being.”
So if you’re looking to become a barista, remember two things:
- Show your enthusiasm. If you’re not enthusiastic, you should probably rethink if this is even the job for you. If you are enthusiastic, show it. An eager and curious employee often has the most upside and potential to have a positive impact on a business.
- Get your foot in the door anyway you can. Brad started as a cashier, as have many others have done before you. Don’t be afraid to pay your dues.
Also published on Medium.