February 23, 2012

Be the Change You Want to Drink in Your Coffee

Peter, of Project Vvlgr, left a comment on my last post. This is part of it:
It's easy to get lazy when you know that the vast majority of people you serve won't know the difference between exceptional work and a drink that was slapped together. I used to see it all the time - even baristas who knew their way around espresso machines would cut corners over time because they figure no one is watching. It's a slippery slope and one that few of us seem to avoid.
 I wrote, then rewrote, several responses, before ultimately deciding that I had enough to say to merit a separate post. And so here we are.

First, it needs to be said, Peter is right. Everyone has a lazy streak, and I'm no different. Even those of us who make every drink well don't make every drink as well as we can. That kind of focus is impossible to sustain for hours on end.

But it also needs to be said that, if we're not showing these people who won't notice the difference precisely what that difference is, how do we ever expect them to learn? How do we expect them to appreciate coffee in the way we want them to? Pragmatically, how do we expect them to keep coming back and spending money? If our product isn't noticeably superior to something that may be cheaper and more convenient, how can we fault them for choosing the latter?

Again, I am far from perfect. But I do try, I think, to serve product I'd happily pay for myself, and that represents our industry well. In the event that I stray, the above questions come to mind. They are worth remembering, no matter how good a given barista's current work tends to be.


  1. If it helps to know, although there are those expressive picky folks who remember that one suboptimal skinny latte and start to call on their personal barista, I've noticed there are also quieter but equally keen people who later on tell their friends which places have good or bad baristas. :)

    1. Hmm. Certainly worth keeping in mind, lol.