There are four important questions that help a barista come to understand their role in the world of the coffee house. Who is your guest? Why do they come to your shop? What makes a good cup of coffee? Why is any of this important? Understanding these answers are central to being an impactful barista, not just a coffee shop employee.
First, who is your guest?
The guest is a fellow human in a busy world. They walk through the doors wanting coffee. They do not want to make coffee from their home. They enter having already decided to spend money on themselves. Coffee is either a luxury, or perhaps even a necessity, to the guest.
Second, why do they come to your shop?
Why are they not just pouring grinds into their home brewer? Well, a large portion of the population does not know how to make a great cup of coffee. A good barista does know how, and strives to achieve that great cup every time. It goes beyond flavor though. Guests rush to coffee shops to celebrate good news, or to cope during turmoil. Why do they gravitate to their shops during these times? Their baristas make drinks with passion and perfection. On some level people understand that no one creates great things for no reason. A well crafted cup of coffee tells people that they have value and importance in this world.
Third, what makes that good cup of coffee?
There are “six essential elements of quality oriented coffee brewing” that are gone over with wonderful authority at the Texas Coffee School. These elements are correct coffee-to-water ratio, grind particle size, proper operation of brewing equipment, an optimum brewing method, water quality, and an appropriate filtering medium. An understanding of these specifics is essential to how to be a barista. Focusing on these basic elements brings forth more than a good cup of coffee. It creates an understanding for the entire complex process behind the drink so many enjoy. It gives an appreciation for the beverage. It inspires attention to detail. If a barista who creates the most beautiful latte art on the planet can’t brew a good cup of coffee, they are missing the plot. It’s all for the love of coffee.
Fourth and finally, why is any of this important?
Often, the barista never knows why their guest needs a coffee. They may be developing a cure for cancer, or writing the classic novel of their generation. They may be about to start a long drive, and that cup of black coffee will be the only thing that keeps them from falling asleep at the wheel miles down the road. They may be bracing themselves to end a relationship, or gearing up the courage to open a new chapter in their lives. The coffee shop is both catalyst and chrysalis. Within this transformative world, the barista creates a beverage and interacts with their guests such that they leave with what they came in needing. They may have come for inspiration, courage, comfort, or simply good flavor. What a wonderful variety can be found in the same artfully crafted brew! A barista may never know how they have changed their world, but have no doubt that they change it every day. They make a great beverage because they believe their guests and their coffee are important. That’s how to be a barista.