The most talked-about story circling the web today comes from Erin Meister, whose ongoing work for Serious Eats remains some of the very best coffee writing on the planet. Her feature today – “Baristas and Customers: How We Can All Get Along” – is a nuanced, mature response to recent public critiques (Village Voice, Ben Leventhal) of the specialty coffee customer service dynamic (for a considerably less nuanced response, please see here).
A few excerpted gems from Meister's feature:
* The barista is on your side. The people behind the cash register and the espresso machine at your local cafe are there because they like coffee, they like making people happy, and they like working hard for a living. They want to make you something that you will enjoy, and appreciate when you support their business. They are not the enemy, and they are not “beneath” you.
* If you would describe yourself as “not a coffee snob,” you would do well to pick a coffee shop whose aesthetic and product resembles what it is you're looking for in particular. If you are irritated by baristas who tend to get excited about the coffees they're serving, or whom you find too effusive or chatty (aka “lecturey”), you might feel more at home at a cafe with less of a focus on the coffee itself and more on the hospitality experience.
* If you would describe yourself as “not really a people person,” or find that you feel frustrated by questions or requests from your customers more often than not, being front-of-house in a service industry like coffee might not be for you.
* The people that walk up to the cash register and the espresso machine at your cafe are there because they want to support the business and purchase something they will enjoy. They are not the enemy, and they are not “beneath” you.
This is the best article on specialty coffee we've read in a long time, and you should definitely go and read the whole thing on Serious Eats. If you dig it, or are riotously offended by it, feel free to comment over there on the SE post, where Meister is actively engaging with her readers in the comments forum.