A thought occurred to me today as I was working our Clovers and making delicious brewed coffee… The clover brewers are behind the machine and in a place where, if you want, you can just listen to all the interactions between other baristas and customers. Now, understand that Intelli.la, or better, Intelligentsia as a whole, is a customer friendly company, and the people who make the important decisions lose sleep over unhappy customer situations. When preparing for our Silverlake store to open, we spent a lot of time tearing into each other over how we spoke to customers, looking down on negative sounding tones and reactions to questions. We put a lot of time into handling customers in the best and most humble manner possible. Over all, I think we’re doing a good job.
In my travels, I’ve spent a fair amount of time hanging out in coffee bars of all sorts. I’ve seen places with many different focuses and many different view points. Some places caring solely on coffee quality, others caring most about customers being happy (even if it meant compromising the quality).
My conclusion is simple. It is not human nature for a Barista to be 100% completely non condescending to customers 100% of the time. Don’t worry, I know I’m being a bit extreme here, but I really don’t think it comes naturally for almost anyone. I can think of a handful of baristas who this may not apply to. However, I think that the more time goes on and the longer you are behind a bar, there’s a part of you that wants to fight for good coffee, and sometimes, as in any battle, bullets stray.
I say this all to remind myself and anyone else that may be weary at times that to stay approachable (and to really impact a customer) it takes a proactive attitude and a teachable mindset. Hopefully, we can all remember this and keep each other in check as to slowly change the majority mindset on what coffee can be.
I also think that much of this comes from what type of personalities make up a lot of coffee people. To be a barista, especially a career barista, you have to care… Mostly because if you don’t, the money isn’t often good enough to keep you around. Leaving the rest of us who are manning coffee bars to be somewhat crazed and psyched to the extreme about this whole coffee bug. And as many of us are radicals, it gets easy to wish our passion too much onto our customers, and sometimes we lose hold of the tether that keeps us sane and connected to elements our customers understand.
In brighter and easier to digest news, someone from Olympia Coffee Roasters stopped by a few days back and dropped of a bag of their Big Truck Espresso blend. Today, we threw the stuff in our third hopper and rocked shots for all the staff that were hanging out. We should have probably done this sooner, but whatever… The shots had a beautiful silky mouth feel and a delicate and delicious sweetness. Thanks to all you Olympia kids for the beautiful coffee. Keep up the rad work! I really need to get up and see that shop sometime…