an open letter to new baristas

Last week I was in a cafe and the owner, knowing my level of coffee snobbery, asked me to go easy on the new barista starting out.  Knowing how hard learning the serious art and science of espresso can be, I ordered a single macchiato, knowing that it was one of the cafe’s “signature” drinks.

I patiently waited for my beverage and when it was delivered, I enjoyed a smooth but not perfect macchiato – definitely not bad for someone just starting out!

That’s when the barista popped by my table, asked me about my macchiato and wondered if I liked how it looked.

Pardon me?

Yes, they were concerned about the look of the drink and if I liked the attempt at foam art!  I was initially horrified at this question as a macchiato is a drink that is to be consumed not admired.  I gave the barista my honest answer which led a really great and inciteful conversation about the importance of beverage taste, consistency and overall vibe when choosing a coffee house.

This conversation solidified my view that this barista and coffeehouse was dedicated to building a sustainable coffee culture and establishing a strong business that supported the local community with quality drinks, food in a comfortable and welcoming environment.

This led to a further discussion with another friend about the burgeoning coffee culture and the arrival of the “boutique cafe’s” more concerned with appearance and attitude then overall vibe and experience.  Add to this the increasing focus on foam art, such as this video, it seems a lot of people are focusing on things beyond the importance of providing a good cup of coffee!

To wit, I have written this oppen letter to all new baristas, in the hopes that they review what is truly important in learning the art and science of coffee preparation:

Dear Barista-in-Training;

IF YOU ARE MORE CONCERNED ABOUT MAKING BITCHIN DESIGNS IN LATTE FOAM THAN PULLING A TASTY, SMOOTH SHOT OF ESPRESSO THAT IS WORTHWHILE DRINKING, YOU SHOULDN’T EVEN CONSIDER BECOMING A BARISTA!

Perhaps becoming a photographer, fashion designer or painter is more your speed.  Just saying.

Once you have mastered the art of the perfect espresso shot (grind texture, tamping pressure, water pressure and amount, what amount of steam, temperature and the amount of foam in the milk), then you should worry about drawing purty designs in my crema.

And honestly, while it is nice to have an aesthetically pleasing beverage, all I really care about how it tastes!  If show you care enough to craft a drink made from a better than decent shot of espresso, I will want to come back to your establishment and give you my business.  And guess what?  I want to give you my business!

So please baristas in training, learn how to print your name before attempting to write your magnum opus!  Your art is in a medium to be savoured and consumed first, then appreciated for its aesthetic value.

Of course, that’s just my opinion as your customer and the person who is paying you for your services.  I may be wrong, but I can guarantee if you continue focus on making a tasty beverage, I will frequent your establishment and recommend it with great regularity.  And if you eventually have the skills to make it purty as well, I will reciprocate in kind in the tip jar and on instagram/twitpic!

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