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a cup of etiquette

January 11, 2013


I had an interesting experience at a barista gathering the other night that brought up some concerns that I want to express here on Cup Of Texas.

While conversing with a fellow barista, I was crudely confronted with a criticism that brought up some issues I’ve been wanting to talk about for quite some time now. My fellow barista (using language I’ll not repeat here) told me that a single shot I pulled for them on our busiest night of the year three months ago was not as good as other shots I had pulled for them in the past. At the time, three months ago, I asked if the shot was satisfactory and was told that it was great. Being confronted three months later in such a manner honestly confused and flustered me.

I did not know how to respond. I could not now adjust the espresso and fix the experience. Should I say “Thanks? You caught me? I’m not perfect.”

No barista is.

I don’t profess to be but I was shocked because I thought I was part of a community that strove for excellence together. Not one that focused on faults and tore each other down. I thought I would use this personal experience to express some professional barista etiquette that I think will help grow and improve the community.

  1. Lose the attitude. We make coffee. We try to make it the best ever. But we’re not saving the world. Its okay if the coffee is difficult or you are having a bad day. Talk to the baristas around you. Have them taste it. Work on dialing it in together.
  2. Talk to customers. Don’t be afraid of criticism. Giving or receiving. I asked the person who confronted me last night, at the time if it was a good shot. They said it was. Lying does not improve the coffee or each other as baristas. Learn how to talk about coffee constructively, and how to ask good questions.
  3. Learn as much about the coffee as possible. Not just the country but the farm name, the farmer’s name and the processing. If you know more you care more. We are the last link to deliver many people’s hard work to a public that often doesn’t know what we are doing or why. Educating your self allows you to educate others and grow the community.
  4. Respect other Baristas and all other parts of the coffee industry. We are all in this together trying to make Specialty Coffee a product we can be proud of, but that also translates to the public. This is a profession and we should all treat it as such.

While I was frustrated by the conversation, I was more surprised that this person had thought about the bad espresso I gave them for months before feeling that it really must be mentioned. Yes, we must care about the coffee we make and receive but if you are so focused on one beverage that you lose sight of the larger scope of the coffee industry and your place in it, you have missed the point.

I hope we can grow our Texas coffee community beyond making one perfect espresso shot to improving and integrating into the Professional Specialty Coffee world at large.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Priya permalink
    January 12, 2013 1:42 pm

    How interesting that this person chose to confront you so rudely about that shot. While I will say that I tend to reply with an “it’s fine,” during a rush, I try to make a point of coming back when it’s slowed down to discuss any comments or suggestions I might have. I know when we have a rush, if someone tells me the espresso’s off, I can only do so much to adjust during the rush, and can make better adjustments when we slow down again, but it’s important to be aware of. But in all cases, there’s no need to be rude when I make suggestions or express my opinion. It’s not like I’VE never pulled a bad shot before!

  2. January 14, 2013 9:42 pm

    I’d just say “Well, how nice of you to hold a grudge about a shot I pulled a long time ago. I hope that now you have confronted me you can move on with your sad life and pick on someone else’s shots.” The End.

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