Death before Decaf: My experience as a barista

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By Tucker Swiastyn

Photos by Julia Larberg

Photos by Julia Larberg


 

cswiasty@jccc.edu

 
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.

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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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