January 15, 2015

Barista Talks

The one job that most of my friends want to do - is something that I have done 10 years ago (I suddenly feel old!).  I am (always) proud of it. I was once a barista. The very first job title I held after graduation.

Last week, my friends and former co-workers met up for a reunion and we talked about the fun times we had working on the other side of the bar. Our mini-reunion lasted for 11 hours that it felt like working on a normal shift and that called for a Reunion Part 2 (which happened yesterday).

We met up at the same coffee shop where we all worked together and had a brazillion fun - Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Tomas Morato. We were the first baristas and managers who made your cappuccinos and served you the perfect shot of espressos (oh, don't forget the tea lattes!). I was assigned in 4 different stores and worked with different teams. Technically, I only held the barista title for 6 months, after I was promoted to Management Trainee following my regularization. 

Working as a barista is not as glamorous as most of the people thought it is. I remember on my first day, I started with cleaning the dining area and washing the dishes. I never complained about it because I thought it is all part of my job - and these are things I continuously did even after I got promoted as a manager. On the second half of the shift, that was when I learned how to make my first drink - Mocha Ice Blended! What a delight to work for a coffee shop who "originalized" the ice blended drink, that shake they call frappuccino.

On my second day, I was assigned in the Gourmet Station where I learned how to make easy breakfast sets (I had perfected my poached eggs in 1 day!). I had to learn fast because I was working on a busy store.  It took two weeks before I was trained in the (E&B) Espresso and Brew station - everyone's favorite station where hot drinks are made. The first thing you need to know (and master) is how to steam a milk and make good foam (not bubbles!). Pulling a shot of espresso and making a cappuccino are my favorites! I am still wishing they would still allow me to do these whenever I visit a store! 

#PrettyCashiers were born to call the store's frontliners. But we all had our share of limelight working in front of POS terminal where you get to memorize the buttons and drinks. This was where I learned how to cross-sell, up-sell and suggest-sell. More importantly, I have learned the drinks, coffee and teas and be able to describe them to our guests (how do you describe Sumatra Dark?). I am proud to say that we never experienced shortage in the till, or vault in my 2 years of handling a store (I am lucky to get to work with such amazing team!).

When I was assigned in another store (a two-floor store) that was when work became much more physical for me. If you are familiar with the Tomas Morato store, I am sure you love the al-fresco area on the second floor dining.

Well, part of our job as a barista is to clean it every closing night. That means, cleaning the table, sweeping the floor, brushing it, and arranging the chairs and tables again. There were nights when I would be assigned to clean the whole second floor or whole first floor because we didn't have cleaner then. We also needed to clean the toilet (oh, how many party people in Tomas Morato visited the store to use that toilet? You wouldn't imagine the kind of mess that we cleaned every weekend!). Oh, don't forget the grease strap! 

In between those crazy nights, peak hours and lunch breaks were fun times as we learned more about effectively handling guests, making drinks, expediting orders and mastering each stations. The store became our second home, and we made a lot of friends who were our regular guests. We learned how to manage lack of stocks, inventory, guest complaints, lack of change fund and annoying team member. There were days when even if it was our off, we would visit the store because we love being with our team that working doesn't feel like work except for the physical exhaustion.

Since we were running a rather slow store, I had to stay productive by endlessly cleaning stuff, refilling stations and doing other productive things. I remember one time while I was scrubbing the tables and chairs in the al fresco area (where most of the Law and Med students stay and study), my manager (#TinyBubs) asked me if I didn't feel somewhat ashamed of what I was doing. I did not. I was actually proud of myself. And it is hard to complain about the work that you do if you see your managers, even the Managing Director is helping and working with you - bussing out and clearing tables to help when the store got busy.

The sad part about the society is when people look down at certain jobs and work because they thought that these jobs do not require analytical skills - or board examination or sort of certification. You might be surprised if I say that the people I worked with came from exclusive schools (I think I was the only one at the time who came from a state university). But we did good great. We embraced the job description and the dirty work that came with it. A barista must be an active listener, has systems and operations analysis skills, good judgement and sense of urgency, and must be able to collaborate and work well with the team. Today, we have different titles under our names but it is the story of a coffee bean and tea leaf that connect us all.

Those were the stories ten years ago. I made good friends, prepared coffee, did inventory, reconciled variances, opened a store on my own (literally working as a manager and barista for 2 hours before my barista came in), opened a new store, trained barista, trained managers (hello #JohnmyfriendJohn!), issued pink card, issued pink slip (yes, notice of dismissal because of termination for a cause), conducted my own tea cupping seminar, and made more coffee. 

Looking back at how I live my life, I live it with no regrets and I am happy with the decisions I made. I am even luckier that the universe is with me. I got to work with cool managers (hello #Ver and #Xav) and awesome teams (ctbl003 and cbtl010).

The Reunion Part 2 was actually for our friend's despedida. We didn't get to buy gift for him but we thought he would like something fun to bring like a drum set or guitar to keep him entertained while looking for a new job in Canada. I suddenly feel the need to buy now and send it to him. :) 

Now, raise those coffee mugs and tea lattes, and say Cheers #Cardiac!

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