Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Confessions of a Dangerous Barista


When I first started teaching, I continued to work a part-time job.

I had to wake up at 6 a.m. every morning. Saturday was not my day off. I think I woke up even earlier on Saturdays to go into my one-day-a-week part-time job: the coffee shop.

Coffee shops are obviously well-known for waking up so early that they actually wipe the butt crack of dawn, and my Saturday would continue on with a length of toilet paper attached to its shoe the remainder of the day.

Isn't it funny how I mention toilet paper? Coffee is known to stimulate one's need to use the bathroom, and don't tell me you haven't drank a cup of java then scrambled madly to the porcelain throne.

So, yes, I dealt out this beverage like a black market worker, hidden in early morning shadows, pumping insulated paper cups with Colombian, Cozy Café, House, and decaf coffees. I leaned out the drive-through window, I whizzed and swished cold milk with steam and lathered it into giant cups mixed with sugary syrups and fresh, brewed espresso. I threw pulpy, fruit compote into the blender and watched as ice and magic created fabulous smoothies. I could even make tea.

I was a barista.

I was a proud barista of a small coffee shop aptly named Java Jar because large glass containers filled with brown, legal, addictive beans lined the walls. Beans that produce the world’s most sophisticated beverage: coffee.

This small coffee shop had bright orange and red walls with a menu written in chalk and lattes that were named after candy bars. We had many familiar customers, and some days, if we were lucky, a man by the name Mitch came in.

He was once the governor of Indiana. He currently resides as Purdue University's president.

He always ordered a small coffee. It was easy to procure. Then, there were the other customers that wanted coffee. They tried to speak Italian.

“Good morning,” I said. “What can we get you?”

“Could I get a Venti Caramel Latte?”

“And what size would you like, sir?”

“Venti.”

“Yes, I know, but what size?”

“A Venti,” he said, disgruntled.

I’m not sure why. I mean, I just wanted to know what size he wanted.

That's not being rude. That's being a gracious server. Then, I tried to woo him with his milk of choice. I felt like I was reading the daily special at sophisticated restaurant:

“What kind of milk would you like? We have two percent or skim milk, unless you’re in the mood for something exotic, then we can make it with half and half, which is called a breve. Or we could go ahead and steam up some soy milk if you would like. You wouldn’t believe it, but the soy milk is actually very good. I used soy with my toffee steamer once, and it was a very rich drink.”

Without a blink of an eye, the man would always say:

“Two percent is fine.”

I began tamping the espresso into the portafilter and then slid it into the espresso machine. After I pushed a button, a dark brown pee stream drizzled into the tiny glass. While this happened, I placed the steamer stick into my metal pitcher of milk, and hissed the milk until it was hot and foamy.

It’s an incredible noise. I had to shout to my next questions.

“WHAT SIZE WOULD YOU LIKE?”

“WHAT?” he shouted back.

“WHAT SIZE IS YOUR LATTE?”

“I WANTED A VENTI!"

I stop the frothing milk.

“And what size is a Venti?”

“I’m not sure,” he said. “Don’t you serve it?”

“No, that’s Starbucks.”

We came to a mutual agreement that a Venti must be a large because I held up every cup and he eyed each of one them like they were in a police line-up.

He pointed to the largest cup.

“That’s the one.”

“One large latte coming up,” I said, and rolled my eyes as he rolled out of the coffee shop.