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The Role of the Barista

Do you think your role as a barista is simply frothing milk, extracting espressos or pouring coffees all day long. No way! The job entails much more than that.

At the end of the day – sure – your primary role is to wrangle the espresso machine, but a good barista is also there to create the show. In the movie Cocktail, Tom Cruise and his partner developed quite a following wherever they went because of their personalities and the show they could put on.  Patrons flocked to the bar because of their charisma.  That may be overstating the case for a barista a little bit (flipping coffee cups behind your back and bags of beans over your head may be a little hard) but the barista’s personality and charisma is just as important to the café or espresso bar as is the bartender’s to a bar.  They are the show and the audience is the customer.  The barista is probably the first person the patron meets in the cafe and he or she can set the whole tone for the customer’s experience by the manner of their greeting and the attitude they display while showing off their craft.  At the same time the barista needs to fit the part.  If your establishment’s décor is relaxed and shabby chic, the barista needs to display the same atmosphere in dress, lingo and expressions.  In shopping malls all around the world there are usually a plethora of franchise operations where 16-year olds serve you with little personality and pretty much no coffee knowledge at all. Despite their success they lack the soul of a privately owned espresso bar.  Your café needs a barista to fit in and continue the portrayal of what you are visually trying to give your customer – a unified theme and atmosphere to complete the visiting experience – whatever that theme may be.  A barista that is out of place disjoints the theme and gives patrons mixed signals.

Besides being the show the barista is the quality control officer.  In any espresso bar, in any business, consistency is the mark of quality and the expectation of your customer.  If they cannot easily hang a consistent label on you, you’ll always be looking for new customers and not keep potentially loyal ones.  When the barista is making coffee, will the same customer that came yesterday receive the same cup of coffee today?  Will the coffee art be performed in the same way?  Will exactly the same number of grams of ground coffee be put in the group handle and will it be the same beautiful extraction as last time? Will the milk have the same beautiful, creamy texture and at the same temperature as the perfect cup yesterday? Your customers have an expectation you need to fulfill.  If anything is off they will notice it.  When things are done in a haphazard manner by the barista they cannot appreciate the habit of consistency and your business will suffer.

Through all things the barista is a professional.  What sets a barista apart from the coffee server at McDonalds?  It is the training, the realisation that the barista is a specialised profession and the commitment to ongoing education?  It is the barista’s job – no obligation – to elevate the community’s awareness of coffee and what makes a great cup.  To build a case for being a professional, the barista needs to constantly practice his or her craft and learn every day.  Through this dedication the barista will be seen as so much more than a franchise chain employee, and will begin to be able to command a higher level of wages, an added benefit to being the consummate professional.

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Comments (1)

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  1. Gavin says:

    I have recently gotten involved in Barista competitions in South Africa and I must say coming across your website and the pure perfection you create has got me hooked. I have looked you up on twitter and facebook and now follow your work on there social networking sites.

    Keep it up and know that for the little town boy such as myself your work are nothing short of PURE PERECTION.

    My twitter is Gavxoxo I’d love to hear from you and read more about the work you do.

    Gavin Izaks

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