Death before Decaf: My experience as a barista


By Tucker Swiastyn

Photos by Julia Larberg

Photos by Julia Larberg

There are few awkward moments that top the feeling of walking into a local coffee shop.

Rarely do you walk into one of these shops without seeing thick-rimmed glasses, a pair of vans and a Kansas City ballcap. If you aren’t part of the coffee culture, the regulars’ glares will remind you of that fact.

I remember walking into a local KC cof­fee shop a couple years ago finding myself very uneducated in the world of coffee. I was taught at a young age not to put cream in my coffee. This trait ended up being my best friend. I will let my readers in on a se­cret that will gain you respect in the coffee world: Don’t ask for cream in your coffee.

I have been a barista at Blackdog Coffee­house for almost two years now and have loved every second of it. I have met amaz­ing people, crazy people, smart people and stupid people, all of which make my job behind the bar a grand adventure. Regulars who come in the shop are a mixed bag. I have noticed that the individuals who drink decaf are ever so crazier than the rest.

There is one regular in particular that comes to the shop who I will refer to as “old man.” This old man never fails to order his decaf americano with a bag of chips 365 days a year. My favorite trait about old man is his ability to talk my ear off regardless of my efforts to blatantly ignore him.


Now, understand, this is the nicest man anyone could meet, but I have lattes to pour. However, no matter how frustrated I get, I will always smile when I see the persistent old man walk in while I prepare myself for his endless talking of the cosmos and the smell of his breath that could only have originated from a stockyard.

In that past couple years, I have learned a few tips that I would like to leave with my readers. A human being was not designed to consume 20 ounces of hot milk. So if you decide to order a gallon of steamed milk, prepare your body for a long night. Never ask a barista what the best drink is. We will answer, but we will lie.

Chances are slim that the average per­son enjoys knocking back a double shot of straight espresso, which so happens to be most baristas’ top choice. Lastly, there is a rule all baristas live by. It is our motto, our song and an indisputable truth that should define all coffee consumers: Death before decaf.




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