The other day I walked into Addlestone Starbucks to get my daily dose of Pike Roast. I am standing in line, waiting to order, and the girl in front of me asks for “a venti caramel latte with half the usual caramel pumps, five Splenda, six equals, and about 1/4 cup of milk.”
That poor barista.
I watched her embark on the arduous task of perfecting this girl’s latte until she could take my order. Too embarrassed to order anything with more than one customization, I asked for a black coffee with sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup — I’ll add the half and half and six Splenda myself.
Starbucks is the labyrinth of coffee shops. Every order contains words that an outsider would never understand. The phrase “twenty ounces” is translated to mean “venti.” Coffee enthusiasts can order a pike roast, blonde roast or a dark roast. They can order tea, espresso, lattes and plenty more. And why? For the status of carrying around a 30 percent less plastic cup adorned with a picture of a green mermaid wearing a crown? Not to mention the straw — oh, that illustrious, kelly green straw.
But I suppose coffee does taste better when fixed by a Starbucks barista.
Sophomore Claire Winkles worked as a barista this past summer and recognizes the struggles this job entails. She said the most vexing part of the job was dealing with “regulars” — the meticulous customers who hold high expectations for these baristas, to whom they assign the task of determining their mood for the rest of their day. “People would come in a week after I started working and expect me to have their orders ready when they got there,” Winkles said. Sure, the mermaid on that cup might seem mystical, but baristas are not mind readers.
Winkles realizes that dealing with rude customers is a universal battle in the coffee industry. “One time we had a customer from Italy,” she said. “He ordered a shot of espresso — the ‘Italian version’ — which we were supposed to know, I guess. He made us pour it out three times until we made the espresso foam thick enough.”
The particularity of caffeinated beverages is a phenomenon on our campus, as well. Here are a few convoluted beverages suggested by fellow CofC students:
Claire Winkles: “Venti non-fat half-calf latte with three pumps of rasberry, almond milk steamed to 130, extra foam, no whip and two extra shots”
Kaitlin Smith: “Half-calf venti latte with three pumps vanilla, three pumps hazelnut, soy milk, extra hot, no foam, with whip cream and cinnamon sprinkles”
Caitlin James: “Skinny vanilla latte with two pumps hazelnut, two pumps vanilla and an extra shot”
Zach Williams: “Mocha frappucino with a shot of espresso and extra whip cream”
Molly Deese: “Acai berry refresher, half lemonade with two pumps of classic syrup”
Carleigh Twillman: “Iced Skinny Hazelnut Macchiato, half-caf, sugar-free syrup, extra Shot, light Ice, no whip, double cupped with a dome lid and a venti straw”
Okay, that last one was a joke. “I usually just get a Green Tea Frappuccino,” Twillman said, “but when some people order it sounds like freestyle rap.”
But there is nothing freestyle about ordering at Starbucks. Every little detail that goes into that cup is perfectly planned and precise — all to create a little piece of heaven for each customer. Being a barista has its benefits. “My favorite part of the job was the smell,” Winkles said. “Every morning when I walked in it smelled amazing and after I left I would smell like that all day.”
The job is a rewarding one. Baristas control the far-reaching group of people that have made themselves into a culture — a culture of people who not only enjoy coffee, but enjoy the boundlessly complex opportunities presented by the Starbucks menu. King Street Cookies likes to refer to Starbucks as a “corporate behemoth,” but from what I’ve seen, that behemoth, or shall I say mermaid, is doing a pretty good job at keeping their coffee lovers loyal. Complexity, it seems, is the best ingredient in a good cup of coffee.