Coffee Queen: Experiences of a Veteran Barista

Often when people ask for fun facts about myself, I tell them that I have worked as a barista for three years. I admit that it’s not a very fun, fun fact, but I do own both a personal espresso machine and a steamer wand. When people find out I can make lattes on demand, it has a way of forging friendships quickly.

However, being a barista is not all fun and games. That old “the customer is always right” adage is, as I am sure anyone who’s worked in customer service can tell you, complete and total horseshit. Combine that with the fact that your clientele is perpetually under-caffeinated and looking for a fix, and the result will get you a few crazy stories.

My hope with this article is to help pay it forward with my fellow cup o’ joe slingin’ sisters and brothers-of-the-brew still serving their time by laying out a few common customer blunders here. Hopefully, with a little luck, this can keep everyone from making any mistakes that could have been better avoided.  

The espresso drink spectrum (or the "esprectrum," if you will)

For starters, there is no such thing as a wet cappuccino. By that same token, there is no such thing as a dry latte. The wetter the drink, the more milk it has. The drier the drink, the more foam it has. Essentially, a wet cappuccino is a latte, and a dry latte is a cappuccino. As a barista, when someone orders this wrong, I can either try to explain it to them, which will egregiously offend them, or I can attempt to make the drink that I think they want, which inevitably will be wrong.

Soy cappuccinos are a lie

While we’re on cappuccinos, I want to say for posterity that these are physically and materially impossible. The chemical fatty makeup of soy milk is not close enough to real milk, no matter what the box says, for it to hold a good foam. Almond milk, if you’re really good at what you do (and I like to think that I am), can foam up if you’re really careful with it. However, soy milk will just bubble, spit and get really hot without doing much else, and that's God's truth. Anyone who has served you a soy cappuccino either made it with almond milk or made it with #fake soy.

Mochas

Mocha only means chocolate. To the lady who approaches my counter and says, “I want a large mocha,” I must ask her, “a large mocha what?” Without clarification, I very well could just fill up a big cup with chocolate syrup and call that a mocha. Just specify when you get to the counter—latte, cappuccino, Americano, whatever. That woman who asks for the large mocha and then stands there blinking in outrage when I ask her a follow-up question on what she wants—just don’t be that woman.

I am not emotionally invested in your Instagram post

At my home base shop, I was actually both an ice cream scooper and a coffee gal. I kid you not, we had a woman ask us to re-scoop three ice cream cones so that they would be rounder, cuter and cleaner for when she took pictures of her kids on the beach, and then she did not tip us. Frankly, I will do a lot of things for money, and putting up with your weird and obnoxious requests is one of them. However, I had better be doing it for the money.

Misordering

If you bought an Americano because you heard someone order that on a sitcom recently and then had the terrible experience of realizing Americanos are gross (because they are), I am neither responsible for your decision nor will I be giving you a refund. To the general readership, this may seem a bit obvious. However, I have been informed by several lovely customers that this is in fact “ridiculous,” “unfair” and “stealing,” accompanied by several requests for the manager and at least one person throwing their drink down on my counter.

Prices

I don’t make them.

Prices pt. 2

I really do not make them.

Prices pt. 3

If this bothers you, you may speak to the owner.

If this bothers you, after you have bought something and started to eat it, and you still have an issue with the price, you may get out.

Parenting your children

If you’re going to hand a twenty to your middle schooler and let him or her run free into a shop serving sweets, you better believe you will not be getting any of that twenty back. I am bound to serve any kids who come through, and if you want to come in and complain about how we never should have allowed a nine-year-old to spend all twenty bucks in his or her hands, that is neither my responsibility nor my fault. While we’re at it, can we maybe get a little more supervision when it comes to knocking over display cases, once a day, and playing the penis game in the lobby? It would be much appreciated by all workers in the shop.

Store Hours

If the sign out front says that we open at 7 a.m., guess when we open? Not 6:30, not 6:45, and frankly, if I’m really not feeling it, not even at 6:59. Just because the lights are on and you can see me working through the window, it does not mean you can come in. I am pre-grinding, baking, cleaning, counting, stocking and doing a whole number of things essential to opening up, and at some point, I will probably have to do an espresso shot or two myself because I have been awake since 5:20 that morning. I didn’t get to roll in here in my pajamas like you did, sir, and as much as you bang on the door and make dead-ass eye contact with me, I’m just gonna wait until you read the sign printed right in front of your eyes in our big ass font, telling you when our actual store hours are (and btw, they say we open at 7).