coffee 201

“Can you teach me about coffee?” my barista asked me. “I’m doing everything I can to work hard, but there’s so much I don’t know.”

I flashed back to a November not so long ago when I turned to my manager and asked the same thing.

It’s a big world – how do I get started?

We hopped in my car and went.

We drove to a shop neither of us had been to before. We looked at the menu, and I talked her through the things I saw and what they meant in the world of coffee. We looked at the machine, looked at the beans.

This morning, we went to Boxcar in Boulder – the first coffee shop that I’d visited in the Denver metro. She ordered regular coffee, I got a cappuccino. We asked the barista to explain the brew method the cafe used as he made her Costa Rican.

We sat down and I had her sip my cappuccino, and talked about the differences between our espressos and what she was drinking compared to what an American-style cappuccino is. We wound up with a free El Salvador coffee as well because someone grabbed the wrong drink, so I had her taste test the difference between the two black coffees.

Her eyes got bigger, and she turned to me with questions.

“What’s Fair Trade?” “What is that thing on their retail shelf?” “Why does this taste different?”

Not caffeinated enough, we finished our breakfast and continued on to The Point Cafe. We chatted with the baristas as they prepped our nitro iced coffee and gave us a sample of their kombucha. As we walked back outside, more questions came.

“How do they do that?” “What’s toddy?” “What makes a shop second wave or third wave?”

I love coffee. I’ve loved drinking coffee since I started college. I’ve loved making coffee since my first day at my first cafe. I’ve loved training people to make coffee since the first day Grant came running up to me with a shot of espresso, shoving it under my nose saying, “Smell this! Is this a good shot?”

It’s funny, trying to train a staff. It’s exhausting, too. How much effort can I put in, not knowing how many people will quit within the next three months? How can I distill the information that I’ve learned from some of the best coffee geeks in the country and bring it to staff who came from automated machines? How can I bring you up to a level of confidence and competency without overwhelming you with a completely new world?

And then comes a barista. A barista who cares.

“I didn’t expect to like my job this much.”

A barista who wants to know more.

“Can you teach me?”

A barista who is curious.

“How did you learn all of this?”

By asking questions. Just like you are. By going to hundreds of different coffee shops, spending thousands of dollars, meeting people. Reading. Going to events. Cupping. Tasting. Exploring. The more I learn about coffee, the more questions I have. The more flavors I explore. The more excitement I can find.

I have questions, too. I’ll teach you everything I can, but come along, dear…. let’s be adventurers. Let’s dive deep into coffee and be the best barista you can be.


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