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Voices Of Baristas In The Time Of Coronavirus

Voices Of Baristas In The Time Of Coronavirus

San Francisco's Wrecking Ball Coffee take-out window

San Francisco’s Wrecking Ball Coffee (Photo by Nicholas Cho)

This is an updating feature on Sprudge. Check back for updates. 

“The new normal is wild,” writes Sprudge contributor Jenn Chen elsewhere on the site. “It’s turbulent and unexpected and is going to test the strength of many around the world.” And she’s right—we are more or less through the looking glass here as a coffee industry and a society. COVID-19’s impacts are about much more now than changes of plans or uncertain travel: livelihoods and ways of life are at stake.

We’re fast approaching waking up to a day without cafes in America, and the impacts of that reality are deeply felt across our entire. Those on the very front lines are the baristas, service workers, cafe managers, and kitchen staff who make our international coffee culture so very special. In this updating feature on Sprudge, we are giving primacy and amplification to their voices, taking quotes and offering links back to their social media so you can follow their voices in real-time in the days and months to come.

We’re all in this together. When one of us hurts, all of us hurt. This story is for their voices, but it’s for all of us.

—Sprudge Media Network 

Dandy Anderson, Stumptown Coffee, NYC

I’ve invested my entire adult life into the coffee industry because I believe in what we do. This past week has been nothing short of devastating. I lead a team of people and with every decision I must make, their wellbeing—both physical and financial—is at the front of my mind. I am lucky to work for and with people I believe in and know those making decisions for my company have also been trying their very best to make thoughtful and compassionate decisions. There has not been a day I have not sobbed wishing the best for my colleagues and my peers as we watch our industry crumble. I’ve also been inspired by how those who have come together. If I had any wish it would be that we realize that we have to be in this together to get to the other side. Be thoughtful and considerate. Many may not make it to the other side and we have to have their backs.

Laura Clark, PT’s Coffee, Kansas City

This last week has been really interesting, especially in Kansas City. Within a week, we as a community watch our mayor prohibit events with 1,000 people, 250 people, 100 people, 50 people, and now 10 people. Almost mandating closures of bars as well as carry out, and delivery only for restaurants. All this while I had slowly been preparing by taking my tips and buying food after each shift for the possibility of extreme quarantine. Yesterday, the cafe I work for shut down for at least until the restaurant ban has been lifted, which as of right now is April 1st. At least for me I know that I’ll most likely have a job after this, but I’m waiting it out. Maybe I’ll be picking up some commission projects for art, and reorganizing my loft for more creative projects as well as probably working on my swing dancing moves.

But I’ve also put my Venmo and CashApp in my bio in case anyone feels led to help. Right now here in Kansas City, there are a few people that have put together a virtual tip pool for the baristas of KC, Missouri, and Kansas. It’s @baristakc and they’ve already collected $3,000 for the 120 baristas who have signed up for help. Their goal is to send out $50 a week to each barista that needs it.

Kristina Hollie, Intelligentsia, Boston

Generally, I’ve been alright. We were serving coffee in the shops right up until Monday evening and all of my guests have been in good spirits. For now, I’m essentially working remotely, which is something I do as part of my job anyway, but for only a couple of hours a week. It makes you realize how much you depend on that human interaction, on that energy for motivation.

The hardest part has been being physically away from my coworkers. I’m an introvert. I like being home. But I rely on them for inspiration, for energy quite a bit. It makes me so sad to see them down. That’s why we have to support each other emotionally. For me, I have to be really careful about when I leave the house. I am immunocompromised. But I still want to be active so I’m trying to stay creative and keep routines. It’s so easy to spiral into anxiety.

I think while financials are being figured out, while we wait out this mess, we need to stay in contact with each other. Support where you can. I’ve tried to Venmo my friends a little cash where I can. Call and text them to check-in. I’m making coffee at home every day and try to be very intentional about it. If there are shops still open, buy a gift card. Buy beans online. Every little bit helps!

It’s hard to say what’s next for me. I really don’t know. I’d rather focus on staying engaged in the moment.

Cole Werfelman, Collaboration Chocolate Cafe, Portland OR

Leading up to the closure of bars and restaurants I was worried I would be out of a job but my cafe decided to stay open for the neighborhood. I am happy to be here and help people with their coffee needs as long as I am able to with taking all the extra precautions. I have hand sanitizer for customers and we’re doing everything in a to-go cup. Having a job right now lifts a bit of weight off my shoulders with all of this. These are dark and difficult times, I just want everyone to be safe and healthy and do their part.

Kevin Minniewether, Deadstock Coffee, Portland OR

Think of it like this! We’re all overworked and unbelievably busy / tired. Let’s take this time to rest and work on some self-care! That’s what I’m doing while on lockdown. And when we come out on the other side, we’ll go back to whippin lattes for y’all! Just don’t forget about us baristas!

Eric J. Grimm, Joe Coffee, New York City

In ten days my department went from having a record year to zero business. Every day, I was emailing baristas with new cancellations and before it became clear that social distancing was what needed to happen, we were frantically reaching out to local clients with discounts just to keep baristas working. Last Wednesday, we had four events and then the last remaining events for March and April were cancelled and that was it. I was laid off yesterday and it honestly was a relief after waiting and dreading it. My health insurance is done at the end of April, which is terrifying.

For customers who are still working, there are so many digital tip jars for them to help out baristas who are collecting just their base pay or have been laid off. For coffee professionals who have been laid off, engage with your worldwide community. I personally plan on singing and dancing on Instagram stories and making everyone laugh as long as we’re living in these wild times.

This feature is updating. Lend your voice here and check back for more voices. 


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