in high school and college, i had the fortunate experience of working in a coffee shop. during high school it was at cambridge coffee in the lee branch shopping center of birmingham. through my junior and senior years of college it was in the student learning center’s jittery joe’s. i wouldn’t trade those shifts for the world, they were such a blast. some of my best memories are when i played barista. there’s a special camaraderie forged among you and your coworkers and the customers, and whenever i find myself at a coffee shop, i often reminisce about those days that seem so long ago and so far away.
at a coffee shop, you have several kinds of customers. the people who like the smell of coffee but not the taste, so they order hot chocolates or mochas without espresso (hint hint, they’re the same thing); the people who only drink black coffee because they are “coffee purists;” the people who order fat-free, sugar-free lattes but absolutely want the whipped cream on top (they might be my favorite); the people who pronounce it “expresso” (there is no ‘x’ in the word!); the people who think a starbucks macchiato is a real macchiato (i promise you that it is not); the people who order large coffees five times throughout the same day (what do you DO?); the people who have been waiting in line for ten minutes but still do not know what to order when they arrive at the counter; the people who, after you announce a drink, repeat it right back as a question, as if you might be wrong; the people who order soy cappuccinos (i just, i can’t).
yes! it’s true! these people actually exist. and in all honesty, the only reason i get a kick out of some folks is because i have the knowledge and expertise of what it is like to work behind that machine and counter, cranking out lattes and frozen, blended drinks for hours on end. i hold nothing against coffee drinkers who don’t know what i know; i just like to smile to myself when they come by the counter.
regardless of what customers are ordering or who they might be, working in a coffee shop is an absolute pleasure, and if i could make a decent five-figure salary as a full-time barista, i’d be signing up tomorrow. there is something special about seeing your regulars and calling them by name, catching up on their whereabouts and recent life events. you have this strange, exclusive connection with the customers that they might not even share with the people closest to them. believe me, if you will listen, people will talk. but, considering that i am quite the people person, i have no qualms about it whatsoever.
someday i hope to start my own coffee shop or bakery or combination of the two. i love coffee but would not call myself an expert; i’ll let someone else in the business handle that. i want to be head baker at this establishment, deciding that morning just exactly what we are in the mood to make that day. i want to be up in front with the patrons, sharing a friendly smile as they start their day or wind down their evening. it’ll be an eclectic place, local art on the walls, a community bookshelf for the readers, funky tables and chairs that, although they do not sit quite level, are incredibly comfortable.
the staff will be warm and friendly, happy to have you in our shop and not irritated that you just had to stop by before that 10:00 a.m. meeting. you’ll be able to bring your friends for a catch-up date but also spend alone time here as you read or write or people-watch.
is this a place you would come? does it sound nice and inviting? i hope so, because i keep my fingers crossed each time i stop for a cup that i’ll get to create that kind of space for my family and friends.