The Coffee Technician

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I posted that thought as it occurred to me, whilst standing in line at local cafe. I was feeling put out because I was stuck behind a slew of meticulously dressed down tattooed scenesters. I was feeling my beard get longer as they cheerfully order their chai lattes, soy milk mochachinnos, and navigating the sandwich menu trying to remove all the joy from the items that weren’t already vegan. The slacker on duty took each order individually and then listlessly went about the motions of making each drink. All the time I stood impatiently annoyed at the needless complexity involved; angrily certain that the whole process could be sped up if the barista would just put some effort into it.

Finally the herd thinned and I was able to approach their comrade behind the counter and order my simple cup of simple, hot, black coffee. It literally took less than a minute for the counter person to dispense it from the air pot and serve it up with a smirk of boredom, and ring me up with a snotty look. I dropped my change in her tip jar and began to walk away.

That’s when it struck me.

It might be me that’s got it all wrong.

This poor beleaguered barista had been selected from all the other job candidates She has spent months if not years practicing making coffee drinks1. Had to be trained to properly tamp down the espresso. It had to take hours to learn to pour just the right amount of foam on a cappuccino. Constantly wrestling with that damned finicky machine to get just the right concentration of water that makes a ristretto well, a ristretto, not just simply an espresso shot. They ceaselessly have to argue with nitpicky hipsters over the difference between a lungo and an americano. I mean, I sure as hell don’t know the difference between a mocha and a mocha breve2. Do you? Not to mention the all the other day-to-day horseshit involved with customer service jobs. I mean this person has dedicated a considerable amount of their time, energy and brainpower to become competent at their job. And here I come, this unenlightened jerk. this smug dipshit who has the temerity to be so basic as to order a fucking cup of house blend, without so much as adding a god damned shot of espresso to make it a red-eye. I’m essentially wasting her fucking time over here.

Feeling like a bit of an ass for being so impatient, I turned back to the counter to throw a little extra in the tip jar by way of silent apology.

And that damned half-wit was too busy staring gaped mouthed at a ceiling fan, fidgeting with her nose ring to notice.


  1.  To be clear once you add anything to it you’re having a coffee drink and not coffee, and that’s fine but let’s just fess up to that and move on. 
  2. Actually I do but, for the purposes of this rant, let’s just pretend. 
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5 thoughts on “The Coffee Technician

  1. Also, don’t get me started on how doppio has become the standard. 😉 Seriously, though, I was a barista, once, but I don’t think we called ourselves baristas. I loved working there, and I loved our customers. I was going to say something about how it was a nice place before everyone got coffee crazy, but then I realized I’d just sound like I was trying to be a hipster, so whatever.
    Also, I like ristrettos better than espressos — milder on the stomach.
    Your footnotes are hilarious.

    • In honesty I worked an espresso machine a couple of times in my life, but both as part of the duties of a larger job. A good portion of my friends in the current local all worked at this one coffee shop that dispite numerous staff turnovers and well other issues is still my normal go to place if I decide to spend unreasonable amounts of money on a thirty cent cup of coffee.

      Glad you like the footnotes, there mostly there for my own entertainment. I do think I may be overusing them a bit lately but whatever, I guess.

  2. The whole coffee shop thing amuses me no end. Maybe 5% of the stuff I’ve paid for out there had me walking out the door, nodding and muttering, “Yeah, that was worth it,” between sips. Once you perfect the fine art of strong cold brewing and using extra heavy whipping cream as your cow component, life beyond your own kitchen has no meaning. Tip: Two drops of real vanilla extract. They will worship you as a god.
    I like the footnotes idea. Plagiarism dawns on me.
    I had to Google “lungo.”

    • Cafes are usually a matter of convenience or a splurge for the ones that are serious about what they brew. Day-to-day it is usually just a strong brewed store brand around the house due to budgetary restraints. I’ve been a straight black coffee drinker for the better part of two decades with the occasional espresso shot thrown in when I’m feeling saucy.

      As to the footnotes thing, I like them as a matter of style. Recently had a debate with a coworker on the merits of them vs. parentheses. I use them because they tend not to disrupt the flow of the read just so I can make a small joke.

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