April 20, 2010

I'm better than Mike Phillips

Before I get on with anything else, I'd like to direct your attention to a University Daily Kansan article by a talented young man.

Done? Ok then, let's move on.

To hell with Mike Phillips. I have never met him, and do not know him, but screw him anyway. He has my title, and that's not cool. Phillips won, for the second year in a row, the United States Barista Championships. 

Which is bull, because I wasn't even invited. 

Don't think this is just the ranting of one hubris-drenched madman, however. I've had customers tell me I'm the best. In fact, double-tall-latte-130 just said so. Tall-skinny-vanilla-180-no-foam, venti-peppermint-mocha and two-grande-red-eyes would almost certainly agree.

And they're right. I'm the best barista in the America. 

Ok, this is the part where I turn the sarcasm off. Mike Phillips has forgotten more about coffee than I will ever know. He is an absolute genius with espresso, and of course, his milk steaming is sublime. It would not be hyperbole to say that he is approximately one bajillion times better than I am as a barista. 

And yet, those customers are not wrong. How can that be? How can such a contradiction exist?

It's simple, really -- and it's all a matter of perspective. Sure, the ability to describe and coax ever nuance from a bean is an important part of a barista's job. So too is it vital that they can steam milk properly, and create elegant drinks with it. But really, at its core, that is not what being a barista is about -- that isn't the job.

Making the customers happy is. And that's pretty much the whole job, frankly. As a barista, you do not provide coffee -- not really. Rather, you're selling an experience, a feeling. The customers come to you for their usual dose of comfort, or for an extravagant treat. When you fulfill those expectations, rosetta on the latte or not, you have done your job perfectly. 

That's why I'm the best barista in America -- to those customers. Because I'm their barista. Because I'm the guy who has inserted himself as a pleasant addition to their daily routine. Mike Phillips hasn't done that. Not for these people in Lawrence, KS.

If that all sounds a bit cheesy, oh well. I genuinely believe every word of it. The best barista is the one who makes his current customer's day. It's that simple. 

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