This being the eighth month of August and on the heels of Sprudge’s cautionary list to baristas, it’s probably a good time for us all to consider what I’ll call 8 Simple Rules (RIP John Ritter) to consider at your neighborhood coffee shop.
- This isn’t the gelato shop on Saturday night– order your coffee and move on. While you may be confused by something new on the menu, when ordering your coffee first thing in the morning, it is best to refrain from asking more than a question or two. Caffeine is a delightful addiction and some of those people behind you might be packing heat and wondering why you’re coffee-blocking them. If you need to read the menu for a couple minutes or for the love of all that is good and decent, make a phone call, DO step out of line.
- Play foursquare on your phone, not the side of your cup. The number of modifiers you add when describing your drink is directly proportional to the size of a douchebag your fellow customers think you are. The staff are likely to cheerfully oblige you, but the meter on this cab to cheese-log island is only running higher the longer you keep adjective-izing.
- Try something new. Coffee is a crop and grows on trees– it has seasons. If your usual coffee or blend is gone for a time, don’t fret. Take it as a chance to learn about seasonality and give the new brown hotness a chance.
- Don’t make demands. If a shop doesn’t make the coffee you want or in the way you’re used to, either trundle your way back up to rule 3 or walk out the door. Half way into the sentence “But, WHY don’t you…” it should become clear that you’re dangerously straddling the line between your Aunt Rosie’s “Why I NEVER, in MY day I would sooner spoon up puddle water than pay more than 5 cents for a cup of…” and your Four Year Old Self “Buh, buh, buh I want the OTHER…ice…cre-hee-hee-heeeeAAM” (mouth spittle forming into a huge bubble that inexplicably won’t pop as you silently mouth the word “mom”). Coffee shops have different standards, equipment, and menus. They may not be able to make the beverage you’re used to. They may have tried making your beverage and realized it tasted bad or that they couldn’t make a profit on it. If you want something they don’t have, the time to make a suggestion is in a friendly note mailed to the owner, not while in line in front of a lady whose two toddlers have been alternately serving as freeweights and air raid sirens and who sees your neck as the only thing standing between herself and her cup of coffee.
- Get your beverage for-here or in ceramic. While using ceramic is better for trees and landfills, the real beneficiary in all this is your mouth. Ceramic always tastes better than paper and mostly doesn’t taste at all. As an alternative, pick yourself up a ceramic to-go cup. A lot of places will throw a dime at you for bringing your own cup, mind you, your mug might get chucked back at you if it’s dirty.
- Buy some whole bean coffee to take home. Unless you’re standing at one of the very few remaining coffee carts left in the nation, one of the ways that coffee shops keep the doors open is by selling whole bean coffee. Show your local shop some support and buy some coffee to take home. Also, few things will give you an appreciation for all the hard work your baristas do quite like trying to make coffee for yourself for a change.
- Be disloyal. I don’t mean to say that you should spurn the folks running your favorite shop, just that you should get out there and try some different shops. Coffee is continuing to evolve and proliferate and if you branch out now and again you might just find something new worth supporting. Shops around the nation are starting to follow the 2009 World Barista Champion’s lead to create disloyalty cards that ask customers to try several cafes around a particular city with the reward being a free cup of coffee at your favorite location. Seattle’s disloyalty card is off and running and it appears that the ATL will be 2nd to launch theirs.
- Tip. It’s not always easy when you’re dealing with credit and store cards, but when you receive good service for a tasty beverage, give your barista a tip. You throw a dollar at that bartender for leaning on a knob to deliver your $2.75 PBR, so why not the same for the person that is going to grind, dose, tamp, and carpal-tunnel their way to deliver your brown juice? A good barista has the ability to not only deliver you a tasty beverage, but can sometimes even adjust your attitude back to “I’m going back into the meeting and showing that boss of mine SOMETHING. I will roll my eyes ONLY HALF the time! When I alternately nod off and re-awake in short succession it will be with so much gusto they’ll swear I’m channeling Brian Posehn at a Slayer concert T! P! S! Re-POOORT!” Like I was saying, baristas could use the appreciation and honestly, the money. Witness barista Michael Phillips of Intelligentsia Coffee bringing home the World Barista Championship to the United States for the first time since it’s inception 11 years ago. Years of practice and preparation while holding down his day job and his only payout is more work in coffee (and the ability to rock suspenders like no other). There is no Food Network show in the works, mild fame outside of coffee, little fortune other than his humble pride for a job done well, all that and …just part of what’s left in the tip jar at the end of the day.
If you’d like to share the high-repute shops that you visit or if you have burning coffee questions that would make interesting Nerdist Coffee fodder, please @me or add a comment below.