Much hay has been made as of late, both in the news and in the speciality coffee Twittersphere, about the concept of giving away discounts at cafes. It’s an issue of much consternation for some, but here at Sprudge we try and ride the zeitgeist first and foremost: if everyone is talking about discounts, then truly everyone must want one! Or at least be fascinating by the idea of reading about them.
So we put together a little list of five surefire ways to get a discount when ordering coffee. Some of them are tried and true, while others area a bit more specific. Be sure to read all the way until #1, because it’s by far the most important.
5. Be highly French and go to this coffee bar in France.
The whole world reblogged this piece by the Independent, in which a cafe in Nice has instituted a sliding scale payment policy based on a customer’s politeness. From the feature, by Adam Withnall:
Seems pretty reasonable, for reasons we’ll elaborate on further down our list, but for starters it’s safe to say that one guaranteed way to get a coffee discount is to visit La Petite Syrah in Nice, and be nice.
4. Be James Hoffmann.
James Hoffmann is the 2007 World Barista Champion, and co-owns a respected coffee roasting company in London called Square Mile Coffee Roasters. He’s also a blogger over at his popular website, JimSeven.com. James has written passionately about the practice of comping out free drinks to well-known members of the specialty coffee industry. Here’s an excerpt from one recent post, entitled “I’m Not Calling It Theft”:
From here we can extrapolate that James Hoffmann is often given complimentary coffee at coffee bars. It’s fair, then, to track Tip #2 out a bit further, and say that another surefire way to get discounted (or even free) coffee is for you yourself to become a famous speciality coffee industry person. There’s no “fast track” to achieving this distinction, of course, but the end game is free coffee. If you can find a way to become an internationally known coffee celebrity – win a World Barista Championship, be an internet latte art star, or own a popular cafe with a worldwide following – there will be free coffee for days.
3. Order an espresso.
The humble, beguiling espresso is surely the most comped drink in coffee. It’s the cheapest thing on most menus, for starters, so that helps. Espresso shots are the backbone of any coffee bar, which means they’re being made more (either to serve straight or combine with milk) than anything else. This makes them eminently easy to give away, especially to nice, polite, and curiously appreciative customers.
Try this on for size: Go to your favorite coffee bar and place an order for the whole office, or for your partner and her friends. Say 3-4 to-go drinks, total. Then add an espresso for yourself, to enjoy right now before leaving the shop. You might not get comp’d the first time you place this order, but if you go back and do it 2-3 times a week? For many baristas, pulling that shot for you gratis will be a pleasure.
2. Work at a cool bar or restaurant nearby.
This is like Excalibur’s Sword or something, a secret key that might get you hooked up in a very serious fashion. No coffee professional can subsist on coffee alone, and in fact, many baristas are full-blown food dorks, beer nerds, whisky enthusiasts, wine lovers, brunch fanatics, etc. If you’re a purveyor of one of these life-joys somewhere near your favorite coffee bar, you’d do well to let your favorite barista know. Maybe slip it in to that little bit of conversation you have across the bar: “Oh, I’m good, but I gotta be in to (fill in the blank cocktail apothecary) in like an hour. Have you been?” Again, this might not get you a complimentary beverage right away, but maybe you’ll see that barista and her friends across the bar from you later on. This bodes well for you.
Speciality coffee is an important component in the service friends economy sphere. Bartenders crave it; somms and cicerones love it; and even the surliest of chefs or most blearily hungover front of house degenerate knows they need it. If you make food or sell alcohol for a living, befriend your local coffee folks, and good things will come of it
1. Be a sane, kind regular who tips. Which you should do anyways.
Because life is too short, you know? Why be abusive to anyone in a service position. Sure, every interaction won’t be perfect – we’re all just human beings, after all, orbiting around the sun on the same big blue rock – but there’s never any reason to get heated, raise your voice, or precipitate a jump in blood pressure. Is the cafe you’re walking into slammed? Show a little compassion, and temper your auto-human efficiency expectations. There’s a lot to be said for the dance of human kindness that goes on back and forth between the bar counter; enjoy, cherish, and revel in these moments for just how utterly human they truly are (at least til Briggo takes over).
And if you live in North America, tip – at least $1 per coffee drink. If you’re a sane, nice human who tips, your barista will love you forever. Should you ever forget your wallet, be out of cash, or seriously just look like you’re in need of an extra pick-up, don’t be surprised if your barista slides a free or discounted drink your way. We’re all in this together, after all.