I’ve spent most of my life living in the Pacific Northwest. This means that essentially everyone I know has worked as a barista, including myself. So I understand that the barista is the unsung hero of the service industry—especially in this part of the country. I’m pretty sure that the majority of people working downtown would simply cease to function if their caffeine was taken from them (I’m looking at you, Amazon). What I have issue grasping is why people insist on treating the slingers of their drug of choice so poorly. Maybe they just don’t realize what they’re doing, so I’ve made this list to educate and simplify the issue. If you feel the need to make yourself into an asshole every morning (twice and once in the afternoon), follow these easy steps. If that isn’t your thing, then, you know, do the opposite.
10. Talk on your phone while ordering.
I know, you’re a very important person and that phone call about how hungover you are today is way more important than getting the coffee that will help pull you out of it. I understand completely. But believe it or not people in the service industry are—in fact—people and deserve your attention. Especially when they are about to make something you are going to ingest. Call whoever is on the line back. I promise they can wait five minutes and so can just about anything else.
9. Get annoyed with the questions they’re asking.
Believe it or not the list of questions about size and for here or to go preference are not because your barista loves to annoy you and waste your time. They’re trying to ensure that you actually get what you want. Until they develop ESP skills—I’m sure Starbucks is working on that—they are going to have to ask you questions. So smile, appreciate their effort, and just answer them.
8. Act like you’re better than every/anyone for ordering a simple beverage.
So you like Americanos or plain drip coffee. I like those things, too. As does my dad, Clint Eastwood (guessing), and a lot of other fucking people. In fact, most coffee enthusiasts do. But if you get some superiority complex about it you’re just an asshole.Your ability to not put sugar in your drink doesn’t make you a hero it just makes you someone that likes to drink their coffee like that. The truth is, most baristas don’t give a shit if you want eleven flavors in your decaf latté or you want a shot of espresso. You want something that they have all the tools to make and that’s awesome!
7. Make any comment about your beverage being over priced.
Listen, you’re probably smart enough to understand that the barista at the register or behind the bar is probably not the one who decides on prices. That shit is out of their control. Moreover, a lot of baristas take their craft very seriously. Hell, they have competitions. This is a fucking art form. Don’t you dare tell an artist that their work is not worth the four bucks you’re paying for it. Especially when it’s made just for you and you get to consume it.
6. Go into a not Starbucks and order a “caramel macchiato”.
A real macchiato is served in a very small espresso cup and is made up of espresso and the tiniest amount of foam and milk to mark the top of the espresso. This is nothing like the macchiatos that come out of Starbucks. Now, most baristas understand that when you order a “caramel macchiato” what you really want is a caramel-vanilla latté . And most of them will even make it for you without feeling the need to correct you. What it really comes down to here is a respect thing. Using Starbucks terminology in a different coffee shop is a lot like calling your new lover by your old lover’s name. It’s just rude.
Side note: Ordering a stirred caramel macchiato in a Starbucks is also a dick move. Starbucks macchiatos are all about the layering. So, again, what you’re really ordering is a caramel-vanilla latté. Stop acting like it’s not.
5. Ask for your beverage to be made “extra hot”.
Milk, like anything, burns. When you ask for a drink to be made “extra hot” you are essentially asking your barista to scald the hell out of your beverage. That’s disgusting. It makes it taste like shit and it ruins all the lovely nuances of your hand-crafted drink. If you’re doing this because you are traveling a distance before you drink it and you want it to stay hot you get a double “fuck you”. There are coffee shops everywhere. Go to one closer to your destination and consume your beverage in a timely fashion—while it still tastes good (see number 2).
Side note: If you’re ordering something not containing milk and want it extra hot you’re even more of an asshole. Hot water at a café comes in one temperature. Hot.
4. Order an espresso over ice.
I know that this one has been the hot topic of debate for awhile now. We could go on and on about how putting hot espresso on ice shocks it, dilutes the flavor, and it just gross. However, that’s not why your barista is pissed. You’re not as sly as you think and the entire staff sees you walking over to the condiment bar and making our own iced latté with the creamer in the carafe. You’re a dick. That milk is there so people can put it in their coffee in one or two-ounce increments, not so you can fill up a 24-ounce cup and save yourself a dollar. You are not sneaky. You are not creative. Everyone behind that counter knew exactly what you were going to do when you ordered two shots in a gigantic cup of ice and would have happily given you the milk from the fridge. Don’t make them go out to the bar five times more often than necessary during a rush when they’re running on a skeleton crew because you wanted a latté , but didn’t want to pay for it (see number 7).
3. Order a bone dry cappuccino.
Cappuccinos are made of one-third foam, one-third milk, and one-third espresso. That’s what they are. That’s why they come in their own special cups and most coffee shops will only offer them in one size. Not only is ordering a bone dry one changing what the actual drink is, but it’s a pain in the ass to make. The larger the size of your order the bigger of an asshole you are on this one. To make a 16-ounce bone dry drink your barista would easily have to steam 32-ounces of milk. It’s not just time consuming, it’s wasteful. Why are you doing this? I honestly want to know. I don’t even think you can drink those things (spoons don’t count). And if they ever see you put a lid on that drink (or any foam-heavy drink) your barista should be able to reserve the right to never serve you again.
2. Abandon your drink on the bar.
Espresso beverages have a time frame that needs to be respected. True, the whole “a shot dies” thing was made up by Starbucks to make their baristas move faster. Yes, crema does dissipate and change the flavor of an espresso shot, but only bad espresso will taste bad like that. That being said, your drinks should be enjoyed quickly after being made. The flavors don’t need time to marinate. Your foam starts collapsing, your temperature starts dropping, the beautiful crema on top of your Americano start disappearing. The drink won’t look like it did when your barista made it and it definitely won’t taste like they want it to.
1. Complain that your drink was made incorrectly, but shoot down offers to remedy this.
Accidents happen. Communication breaks down. This is especially true during rushes or when there are multiple people behind the counter at a time. Tell someone and they will happily remake it. They will do this even if you were the one who forgot to say decaf or iced. What doesn’t do anyone any favors is saying that your drink is messed up but insisting that you just “don’t have time” for them to remake it. Fuck you. Either take your drink and keep your mouth shut or let them fix the problem. Pointing out mistakes just for the sake of pointing them out just makes you look like a dick who felt the need to take someone down a notch and nobody likes that asshole.
Ruby lives in Seattle, WA with her husband. She writes about the fine art of existence at Becoming Wildfire.