March 15, 2011

A Better Barista

I am an English major, as noted in my info to the right. As such, I should probably do a better job spell checking, by which I mean that I should probably start spell checking. If I want this blog to appear credible, it is advantageous to appear as if I have a basic grasp of when to use "the" vs. when to use "they". The opening line in my last post (which I'm leaving as is, for the sake of pointing it out) makes it unclear if I have this ability. (Though in truth, it's just a typo.)

This question of credibility is one I've pondered before, and not come up with anything resembling a good answer. There are barista blogs out there, written by former world champions, and people with legitimate aspirations to that title. There are other coffee blogs too, written by relative giants in the field. 

That said, I think I'm a pretty good barista. But it has to be said that my opinion might be colored by my perspective - or more accurately, my lack of it. I've not been to many coffee shops outside of Lawrence; certainly, I've not been to any that produce hardware-winning baristas.

I think, also, that I'm a pretty good writer. But there's an inherent subjectivity to the distinction "pretty good", that makes it pretty much meaningless. That is, I feel like I can write passably well, until I start reading something written by a real journalist. The writing isn't just good, it's alive, compelling, flirting with the sublime. Each sentence is a piece of candy, the book a near bottomless bag. You take one bite, and you can't help but want for the next. Suddenly, my wit feels shallow, my craftsmanship poor. I'm cobbling together particle board; they're laying brick and mortar.

I wonder if my barista skills would seem as pallid, when compared to someone who is good, not just in a corporate satellite, but in whatever context you might put them in. Set them against the best, and they fit in, because that's precisely what they are. 

Truthfully, I don't wonder. I don't have to. I am not that good a barista; I am certainly not as accomplished. But if this sounds defeatist, I would argue that it's not. No one is as good as they can be, and no one began as good as they got. This is all to say that passion for becoming good at a thing is almost as important as being good at it. Certainly, it's necessary if one is ever to fulfill their potential.

I'm writing this now, because I'm about to escape from the purgatory I've languished in. (A barista without a coffee bar is not a happy camper.) I won't write anything specific of yet, for a number of reasons. But suffice it say, I will end up at a coffee bar where my skills will be elevated, because they will need to be. This is an exciting time for me. Being good is good; being better is better.

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