Saturday, July 16, 2011

Your coffee or your love?

There's a cafe up the road from our place where they're very serious about coffee. (Very. Serious.) If the term 'coffee shop' didn't sound so cutesy I'd call it a coffee shop because that's pretty much all they do: sell coffee, in its wet and hot, wet and cold, ground and unground forms. Sure they sell a few macaroons and the odd chocolate croissant but I suspect these items are more counter accessories than a major source of revenue.

So this cafe sells very good coffee which is, inherently, a very good thing.

By extension then, given the God-like status caffeine enjoys in my life, I consider the staff to be (inherently) very good people, and I would certainly have their babies and/or tweak their nipple rings if any were to ask.

(Please ask.)

But despite the centrality of these barista Gods to many of our lives, I worry they may not be altogether very happy people? In the year I've been frequenting this 'coffee shop' I have never seen any of these baristas crack a smile or share a familiar 'hello' with their devotees, nor (heavens!) engage in a spot of banter.

In fact, I was so desperate for an actual interaction with them last week that I mistook a barista chappy asking me how he could help me with how I *was* (existentially, I assumed). It was only when he looked away (embarrassed for both of us) that I realised he wasn't in the least concerned with how I was, just what form of coffee artistry was required of him. Ahem.

So my question is, can you be an expert coffee-maker and show your clientele the odd human kindness (a smile here, a 'see you next time' there), or does one preclude the other?

13 comments:

The Elephant's Child said...

It seems to be an 'expert' thing. I had only previously come across it in shops selling musical equiptment or motor bikes. People doing VERY IMPORTANT WORK, that is beyond the capacity of mere mortals. A bit sad really. Perhaps you should tweak the odd nipple ring without being asked. Or ask for tea.

Alex said...

Okay, I don't drink coffee, and I have no idea what goes into making it; but I do know a few chefs who operate at varying levels. From them, I get the impression that the pursuit of perfection within the craft of food-preparation can turn into an all-consuming obsession (as any passion can, I guess), at which point the customer becomes little more than a necessary annoyance.

No idea how this applies to your coffee shop, if at all. Maybe they're just not friendly people.

Alex said...

TEC, most of the people I know who sell motorbikes are in their sixties, covered in tatts and will sit down and make you a cuppa if you've got the time.

I'm guessing these are not the kinds of shops you're talking about?

The Elephant's Child said...

Alex: You are right: Not the old school bikers but the young wannabe racers. The old school could (and would) talk the hind leg off a donkey.

Noonie Trousers and Then Some said...

Why on God's green earth would you want to tweak the nipple ring of such a morose uber self important barista? Let alone spawn with them?
Girlfriend, you need to come out West. There is a plethora of happier albeit more boganish people to breed with. I'll fling you a can of Diet Coke on your way to the bedroom.

Noonie Trousers and Then Some said...

For clarification, I was not suggesting you do the horizontal mamba in my house, rather I was attending to your caffeine requirements.

squib said...

Baristas are holy, Kettle. You wouldn't say 'Hey, whassup?' to Moses, would you? Noooooo

Of course not

Kettle said...

Ooh tea, dear TEC. Great idea; you know I'm not sure they do tea? Won't it be fun to ask.

at which point the customer becomes little more than a necessary annoyance

Alex I think that sums it up perfectly. I wonder if baristas, chefs etc., actually like it when people drink/eat their creations, or whether the drinking/eating part is the bit that wrecks it from their point of view? If the latter, it's an awful lot of effort for such momentary completeness.

And I'm with you both, Alex and TEC, on old-school bikers. There's a motorcycle workshop a few streets away from our place and the owner has been awesome helping us find a smash repairer for our car. And the best thing is he has three apprentices under 20 so he's bringing them up old-school/right.

And Noonie and Squib, you two will never make baristas, you're way too bloody funny.

Alex said...

TEC: Bloody young people. Again.

Also, "talk the hind leg off a donkey". I'll have to remember that one.

Kettle: I've never had a chef suggest to me that they felt attached to a dish once it was finished. More like they just want to be paid to work on improving or creating whatever they please, rather than taking orders from people who don't understand or share the passion.

On the other hand, some chefs I know refer to this as "having your head up your arse", so it certainly isn't universal.

Also, did you have an accident? Nothing serious I hope. Maybe you should look at getting a bike. You could throw Mr Kettle on the back and Little Kettle in a sidecar.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Are they hipsters, Kettle?

Because they sound like hipsters.

That would explain a lot.

PS, my word verification thingo is "dicopent"

Which I take to mean. "you're competent, but a real dick about it."

Maybe they're dicopents?

Kettle said...

Alex it seems head-up-your-arsedness can strike anywhere and anytime; perhaps we all suffer from such arsedness about things we're a little obsessed with? Maybe I should give the baristas a break.

On the other hand, you could be onto something with 'dicopent' Ramon. These baristas are so hard-core I reckon they'd use hipsters for toilet paper, but describing them as (supremely) competent dicks might just be spot on.

words, wine, coffee, art said...

Kettle, I can't understand how people working amongst the aroma of coffee can possibly be miserable or unfriendly! It seems to me it's an act to convince you/us of the importance of their job.
But I do think you are worrying too much. The main thing is you get good coffee - I assume it is or you wouldn't keep going back. Who cares about the charisma or otherwise of the baristas.
You wouldn't give a stuff about the personality of the person who delivers your mail or fixes the pothole in your street or checks your teeth for that matter.
The main thing is you get what you want! - mail, a bump-free road, whatever.
I've been outback many weeks, and I would give anything for a barista, cranky or otherwise.

Kettle said...

I've been outback many weeks, and I would give anything for a barista, cranky or otherwise.

Dear Words and Wine, you simply need to enrol Mr Words and Wine in one of those barista short courses! That way you can have the outback and hard-core barista-quality coffee.