What's it like to be a Barista

Orsolya’s story

Orsolya has been working as a barista for just over a year. Here’s her story.

What do you like about working as a barista?

Being a barista is one of the most enjoyable jobs I’ve ever had. I love to meet new people, and being a barista allows me to do this. Seeing the smile on people’s faces when I serve them a perfect espresso macchiato or nitro coffee is enough to put me in a good mood for the day. 

Making coffee well is also not as simple as people think. It’s a blend of art and science and gaining knowledge about coffee beans and roasting techniques takes time and effort. 

What happens in a typical day working as a barista?

Obviously, we make coffee. But it’s also about interacting with customers, giving them recommendations, and explaining the differences between different beans and types of coffee. You’d be surprised how little some people know, even when they order a coffee every day. We also have to keep our work area clean, so there’s a fair amount of effort that goes into that. Keeping on top of stock also falls in to my usual remit.

What qualities would you say makes a great barista?

Loving good coffee is the obvious place to start. But you also have to be willing to put in the effort to learn every aspect of the profession. Having this knowledge makes your job easier and provides a better quality of service for the customer. Of course, you also need to have good social skills, be hardworking, and in some jobs, be willing to work weekends.

What are the biggest challenges you face in a typical work week?

Quiet periods can sometimes lead to boredom, but thankfully, I’ve not experienced that too much. Also, keeping a smile on your face when you’re feeling awful inside can be difficult. When you’re doing agency work, as I do, it sometimes takes some time to get to know your surroundings. Different coffee shops have different beans, different coffee, different prices and of course different ways of working. It takes time to get up to speed.

What are the hours like?

Most of the time we tend to work eight-hour shifts, though it does depend on where you work. Some coffee shops open until the early evening, so occasionally you will have to work a double shift and it can be tiring to be on your feet all day. Weekend work is common too, and this is something that people looking to become a barista should consider.

What types of establishments do you tend to work at e.g. cafes, hotels, gastropubs or other?

I’ve worked only at coffee shops and cafes so far, which makes sense. I’d also quite like to experience working in a hotel or a gastropub to broaden my horizons, though the chance to do that hasn’t cropped up yet. 

What advice would you give to someone trying to get into your line of work?

Enjoy the challenge. This might seem like an easy, relaxed job from the outside, and a lot of the time it is, but you need to make sure you’re willing to commit time to learn everything there is to know about coffee. If you can’t explain the difference between Ethiopian and Colombian beans you’re not going to be giving the best experience you can. 

You’ll also need to make sure that you work well under pressure because making multiple coffees during busy periods can sometimes be a bit hectic. And, though it’s a cliche, always put the customer first. Be kind to customers, as they’re far more likely to be kind back.

Why have you chosen to work as a temp in this line of work?

Working as a temp is flexible, and I can plan work around my personal life. I can choose which days I work, and which places I want to work at. As someone who loves coffee, it also allows me to try new bean varieties all the time, and learn from some of the best people in the business. Being a barista is much more than making cups of coffee, it can be a long-term career and a lifestyle.

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