I like to think of myself as a coffee connoisseur, an enthusiast who says “bottoms up!” to three (or four) cups most days of the week. But I admire more than the caffeine. I also feel a connection to those baristas, the ones who mix those gorgeous 12-ounce cups of love, ease my caffeine cravings, and may even listen to me talk about my problems. And, they top it off with that oh-so pleasing swirl— a true, (and frankly, underappreciated) art form. It’s an art form that Elijah Whitman, a Michigan State University student and a three-year barista at Lansing’s Blue Owl Coffee shop knows well. Blue Owl is home to natural coffee flavors and many cheery baristas in the Greater Lansing area. Whitman has French pressed his way to coin the Assistant Manager title at the booming business, mixing together the shops’ naturally flavored drinks for our coffee enjoyment. This pourer of joy talked about what really goes into saving the lives of so, so many college students— one latte at a time.
Do you need prior barista experience to get the job?
It’s not hard to apply. You don’t need prior experience, but it helps if you do.
How did you get the job?
For me, the hiring process wasn’t hard because my dad owns the place. I’ve been around since the beginning.
What is your favorite drink to make?
I like making hot lattes because I get to do latte art, and that’s fun.
I don’t know if I can do this! I like making them all (laughs). But, probably tea because you just pour hot water over tea bags.
What would you say is your most popular drink?
Vanilla latte. Iced vanilla latte. That’s a classic.
Do customers tend to order really complicated drinks?
It’s nothing we can’t handle. With the oils, if people combine them it can get confusing. But, it’s not too much.
Is it difficult to memorize how to make all of the drinks?
At first. But, we have a little cheat sheet and it gets pretty easy once you make them three or four times.
Does it get hectic in here?
Yes, it does. As long as we have three people working, it’s not too hard to manage.
So you don’t get too stressed while working?
Not too stressed out. There’s not no stress involved.
Have you seen anything wild while working?
Yeah, there’s definitely our fair share of drunk people. But, that’s nothing too out of the ordinary for East Lansing.
Have you ever had to kick a drunk person out?
No, I haven’t had to do that. I think other people have.
What do you think it takes to work here?
You definitely have to be outgoing and be nice to people. You have to be able to work well with others.
How do you deal with difficult customers?
People are usually pretty nice; they’re just here to get coffee. You have to be nice to people. If they’re having a bad day, we can usually make them a little happier here.