Barista bellyaches: The difficulties of being a barista



Planet Perk barista works to ensure an order is served to perfection.

Rachel Ryan, News Reporter

America is obsessed with coffee. Everyone has that one favorite drink they just have to have, ranging from an Americano to a salted caramel latte.

Cafés like Starbucks continually draw people in with their popular seasonal drinks like the pumpkin spice latte or the peppermint mocha. Between July and late September, Starbucks even earned $6.82 billion, with its market value increasing by 41%.

However, despite the growing craze for coffee, customers still don’t seem to understand exactly what coffee is.
After talking to several baristas, identified by pseudonyms, it became obvious that there are many annoyances like this one that come with the job.

For example, a lot of customers do not fully understand the differences in roasts or that coffee is simply supposed to taste like coffee. This frustrates baristas.

“I wish people knew the differences in roasts. I feel like some people don’t know that dark roast has less caffeine than a light roast,” said Shelby, a barista at Planet Perk.

Amy, another barista at Planet Perk said, “I wish people knew if they come in and order a latte that it’s espresso and milk. ‘Cause some people come in and they think that it’s like those cappuccinos from Kwik Trip and it’s just all sugar and people don’t know what a cappuccino actually is. So I wish people just knew that coffee is supposed to taste like coffee, not just pure sugar.”

Even though not every customer knows the exact definition of what coffee truly is, they seem to have a clear idea of how they want their drinks prepared and precisely what they want in them.

Amy said one customer wants his drink at exactly 144 degrees every single time he visits. Joey, a former barista at New Moon Cafe, said that it can be tedious and difficult to make some individuals’ drinks due to the level of specificity.

Although baristas may get irritated by specific drink orders, they especially cannot stand it when their customers don’t clarify whether they want it hot or iced, or when they change their minds after ordering.
“I think the most obnoxious thing I’ve had to make would be having someone say, ‘Yeah I want it hot,’ making their drink, giving it to them, and then them staring at me and saying, ‘I wanted it iced and [with] soy milk,’” Shelby said.

It’s clear there’s no end to these coffee baristas’ pet peeves, but there are some things that they specifically cannot stand.

Dana, a former barista at Copper Rock Coffee, said that customers will come in and ask for drinks they found online. Typically, baristas won’t know how to make these unique drinks, so they will ask the customer what’s in it. More often than not, the customer doesn’t know.

This becomes a major frustration for baristas. Another thing that baristas dislike dealing with are extremely impatient customers.

“There was this one lady. [She] just ordered and we were super busy and she got super pissed because it was only like two minutes and she wanted her drink now,” Joey recalled.

In addition to the daily things that bother baristas like impatient customers, baristas also encounter lots of obscure questions on the job. Some of these questions include, “Are you single?” “How many calories are in this?” “Is that certified organic? “Is this your first time?” “What kind of drinks do you have here?” or “Do you guys have coffee?”

While dumb questions can be irritating, one barista emphasizes that there is nothing more obnoxious and awkward than unwanted flirtation from customers.

Shelby said one customer came in and ordered a wrap. After eating the wrap, he came up to the counter and she asked how it was.

He responded, “Oh, it was great. You know what you would make? You would make a great wife.”
In these awkward situations, baristas feel trapped.

“If somebody’s behind the counter, they’re stuck there. So don’t force flirtations,” Shelby advised.
Despite all of the irritations from which there is no escape, baristas all seem to agree that the job still brings them joy and pride.

Joey highly recommended it because it’s fun and “you get to experience the whole environment of that area.” Baristas also said they feel like they make people happy just by doing their job.

Note: This story has been updated to make it clear that the names of the baristas are pseudonyms.