I believe in the power of a good cup of coffee. The aroma emanating from a tall, Grande, or Venti coffee, with room for cream to lighten the load, is the first step in establishing a zone of conversation, a place where the icy conversations of the outside world can melt and become general discussions on politics, religion, and love.
Beginning my first job as barista at Starbucks Coffee, that ever-popular lightning rod for both criticism and radicalism, has given me an entirely new perspective on the way we humans communicate, from our talk of finances, to our debates on the best way to prepare a coffee misto. And these series of talk are never limited to behind the bar, hidden behind an espresso machine or a blender. My talks with customers extends throughout the store, forcing me, a young lad with the habitat of floating around my own personal circles only, to discover new people, faiths, and ideas.
The allure of a pastry or a hot tea steeping in a cup has become weaker over the months, working as an employee of this worldwide empire. I have tired of the exotic flavor of Frappucinos, macchiatos, and lattes. Even the most adult of drinks, a simple doppio espresso, a cup of powerful coffee flavor that would lead me to cringe as I tasted the bitter flavor inside, has become a melancholy shot of brown water. Sampling the store’s plethora of syrups, different milks, and even the subtle differences between Equal and Splenda, have become teasing variables in creating a drink that, somehow, will give me a boost of excitement, a new flavored beverage that I can look forward to.
But now that I have tasted every pastry, become an expert on every tea ( I recommend the Berryblossom White), and learned to differentiate between a Latin
American blend and an Asian/Pacific blend, I have learned to look forward to something else as I drive the twenty minutes to work: I have come to love the people.
Such a generic phrase, “I do it for the people,” truly does means so much to the lowly barista who, granted, is paid to be friendly, but who can actually look forward to the regulars, and helping those few people who still have never tried a Frappucino before. The look on a child’s face as he buys an iced lemon pound cake with his own five dollars is a warming experience that can bring a smile to even the most bitter barista’s eye. A customer whom comes in and tips a twenty dollar bill every week, all because we talk to her about her day at the office.
To talk to a customer is an established principle in the service industry, but to really care about them, to truly believe that their two dollars (the exact price, with tax, of a Venti coffee) means something to me – this is why I have come to love my job. I believe that I have found the source of all happiness in this world – a good cup of coffee.
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