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.