Stories Of An Ex Coffee Barista

With the modern world growing ever faster and less patient, the coffee shop where I worked opened a drive through window (I refuse to spell through ‘thru’). And each morning I would stand at that window, taking people’s orders, and shouting them to that morning’s drink maker.

There were the predictable folks who got the same drink each and every day and always seemed surprised that you remembered. And then there were the customers that barely looked at you, mumbling some incoherent instruction as their eyelids scraped the steering wheel. (Should they have even been driving?) But my favorites (at least looking back) were those folks who thought themselves so terribly knowledgeable about coffee that they looked for any reason to correct me and my fellow baristas.

I remember one of my first days on the drive through. A gentleman ordered a blend of the day with Turbinado sugar. Hey, I was new, I had no idea what he was talking about, so I asked him to repeat it. And again I asked. I looked through the condiment bar to find this rare seasoning when I happened upon a brown packet that was labeled Sugar in the Raw – Turbinado Sugar. Oh the brown sugar, I said. NO, he replied. THE TURBINADO SUGAR.

You would have thought that I poured his coffee onto his lap (which had crossed my mind at that moment). Instead, I laughed to myself as he drove away. And I made sure to get it right every time thereafter, enunciating the name loudly so that he could be sure that his lesson was well received.

Or perhaps the best story is that of the woman that wanted a ‘wet’ cappuccino. Having never been a barista on the West Coast, she assured me that it was a popular drink in Seattle. Now, let me say this, I haven’t really researched it, so she may be right, but for the sake of humor and this article, let’s pretend that she’s trying to pull a fast one on me.

Every day she comes into the store or through the drive through and asks for a wet cappuccino, more milk, less foam. And we do it, rolling our eyes at her pickiness. Eventually, we realize that she really wants a latte – it has more milk and less foam than a cappuccino.

Interestingly enough, our cappuccinos are cheaper due to their having less milk, so she ended up getting the lower priced drink because of the way that she ordered and our manager’s insistence of not arguing with her.

More stories to come. I was a barista for over two years, then a trainer, a supervisor, and a general manager. And the stories never stopped.


  1. I completely understand!! I’ve got a similar story to the cappuccino. it’s called the Chevron lady.

    My coworker (Karen) was on reg and Iwas on bar. I’m listening to order and make a cap.

    I called the lady by name and her drink. she gets her drink and says, ‘this is not a cappuccino. its a latte’, and I looked over at the ticket and the drink and explained to her that the cap has more foam and latte has more milk in it and if she wants one, I’ll gladly make it for her.

    She was completely upset. She walked away and was complaining by the condiment bar (which is less than 3 feet away from me). So she comes back and wants me to dump out the cap (which was beautiful foam!) and put coffee in it.

    So, I want to make I got it right, repeated back to her, dump the cap, put coffee in it and she was livid. She told me, that I should be re-trained.. and blah blah blah. of course her husband is explaining that I could re-make the drink and trying to calm her down (BTW, its Christmas season too at this point). she walks away complaining and I hear her say, ‘its not like Chevron, theirs is better.’

    Go Figure!

  2. Actually that customer is right about the “wet” cappuccino in west coast. A “wet” cappuccino should have less foam than a cappuccino but more foam than a latte. The more popular version is a “dry” cappuccino which means mostly foam without milk.

  3. I have had drive thru’s for 8 years and we do coffee in 2 call centers and I have many stories that sound similar. One time a lady ordered the famous ‘French Vanilla Capp’ and when asked how much foam, she replied ‘none’. So we made her a FV LATTE and she came back mad as a hornet that her FV Capp didn’t have CHOCOLATE in it”?? She began to argue with the barista that whenever she gets this that there is always choc in it! So, I just took her cup put a squirt of choc in it and gave it back to her. Give the customers what they want I guess and only educate those that want to learn.

  4. omg, i had the same problem. People order a cap because its 10 cents cheaper but then they dont know what it is…

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