We serve two Customers:
- The community to whom you are serving coffee (the cafe’s customers)
- The community that brought you that coffee (farmer, importers, roasters, et al)
What a barista is and does daily is quite possibly one of the most important roles in the whole supply chain of specialty coffee. The heart of the role’s meaning is found not in the trappings of the craft but in the daily work of creating experiences for the benefit of these two groups.
The Cafe’s Customers
People and how they are treated is the key point of focus for all baristas. Any endeavor we humans set our hands to is done with our minds and hearts resolved on an outcome that satisfies our souls. Though the customer is not recognized as an artist, they set about the work of creation daily. Through purchase they create an experience that they hope will speak to that deep sense of satisfaction we all look for. We as professionals create our shops and our service encounters with the idea in mind that we will meet them in that pursuit as we too desire to draw a sense of satisfaction from our craft. Practicing hospitality with sincerity and empathy is a practical way of recognizing their deeper human needs while using our skills to render exacting quality. Serving your customer well also serves you well. It is not selfish to recognize that. In fact if you try to divorce self from hospitality then you end up with insincerity and burn out. Both baristas and customers are creating experiences-one through provision, and one through purchase. This is a truth from which we should draw inspiration. We need each other to continue creating. I think most of you reading this must truly want to be a servant to and for your cafe’s customers. If not, that is ok, there are many other ways to work in coffee besides the cafe, where you will be happier and make others happy too. We must be honest with ourselves and either embrace service to the public as an honor and joy, or we must, for the sake of all involved, seek other areas of the industry.
A barista’s first area of concern is creating experiences of sincere, empathetic, and hospitality driven service for their customers daily. To do this well, you must recognize and honor the customer as a co-creator of this experience as they facilitate your craft and create opportunity for these experiences by their patronage.
The Coffee Community
There are many people who could wear that pin who put great effort into their particular niche of the industry and made that coffee in your hopper both possible and special. Owners/managers/baristas etc serve not only their local community but also the professional community of which they are a part. We retail professionals serve to realize the collective dreams of all those who contributed to that coffee’s potential as much as we serve to realize the collective dreams of all those who buy it.
The barista delivers only a momentary expression of a given coffee. In order to make these brief encounters count and maximize each opportunity we need a balance of humility and confidence in our pursuit of knowledge from our industry and wisdom to know how to apply it appropriately in the shop. Customers understand specialty coffee through the lens of their accumulated experiences with it. Habits formed around these sensory expressions of coffee are what drive this industry forward. As a barista you facilitate many expressions of coffee. Hundreds of times a day you will facilitate experiences that in turn further promote the success of our industry. We are responsible for crafting coffee in such a way that not only serves the customer in the cafe but also serves the coffee community by ensuring the coffee’s final stage of life; as a drink that is sustainable, delicious, and compelling.
To serve both the customer and the coffee community well we must first draw inspiration from them. We can then create a coffee experience that honors the dreams of both groups while at the same time making it your own expression. In this way we are using our tradecraft to define and display for the world what specialty coffee is right now and what it can be in the future. So the next time you hurry back to the store-room to grab some bulk to top off the hopper, realize and be driven by the reality that, as a barista, you literally hold the future of coffee in your hands.