This post was written by, AJ Lux, a barista at Caribou Coffee and also a guest writer for Barista Life. AJ created a school newspaper at her middle school called "A Slice of Pi" and edited it for two years. Check her out on Instagram also!
The orders just keep coming. A frantic blur of customers eager to quench their caffeine and sugar addictions crowd around the register and push their way to the edge of the bar after their orders are taken as if every second they spend waiting for their complicated drink to be handcrafted is a second more the world has to suffer. And to the poor barista on bar by herself, their attitude seeps into everything she’s doing making it seem far more urgent than it really needs to be. Caught up in a whirlwind of different drinks with different modifications unheard of before this moment, she finds herself struggling to even breathe.
Please barista- please breathe.
She calls out a name cheerfully (the glazed happiness in her voice comes from the three espresso shots she’s chugged at record speed) and the customer responds with a scowl.
“Um… I wanted that iced.” Time freezes with the barista’s espresso-charged heartbeat and she quickly going into complaining-costumer-kindness-overdrive.
“My apologies! Let me remake that for you right away!” She exclaims. But as she turns the customer lets out a frustrated sigh and replies in a my-day-is-ruined-tone of voice:
“No, I have somewhere to be right now I can’t wait for that,” then, under her breath in a stage-whisper just loud enough for everyone in the waiting cue to hear, “if you didn’t take so long in the first place I could have been out of here on time. What a waste.” She saunters out angrily leaving the barista holding a mistake of a drink and the broken feeling that she will be having a talk with her manager later once the complaint is sent in. The orders keep coming. She just wasted too much time and now her entire body is internally shaking. How many more complaints will she cause before noon?
Please barista- please breathe.
Eventually, the orders and coffee cups are filled. She powers through them with the pain of the earlier encounter still pulsing in her head along with a stress and espresso induces headache. When the rush slows, she slows down and breathes for the first time all morning. But it’s not enough. She feels like she’s not good enough. And she’s not alone. This situation is familiar to many, if not all, baristas working morning rushes who feel like the customer’s needs come before their own oxygen intake. My message to you, dear baristas, is a short one: please breathe.
It takes approximately twenty seconds to steam or blend a drink. Twenty seconds that could be spent frantically trying to do something- anything- that would keep the customers from complaining. Or… twenty seconds that could be spent breathing. It sounds like an absolute waste of time, I know, and the customers would not be happy to see you doing some mid-bar meditation. So don’t drop everything you’re doing in these twenty seconds. Instead, check in with yourself and wash some dishes or make sure everything is stocked. Just breathe. Everyone will get their coffee- it’s only twenty seconds- and you regain control of yourself and the bar. If you feel like talking to a friendly customer, shot them a smile. If your smile is greeted be a snarl just keeping doing what you know you need to do. Breathe barista- you’re human. The customers are human. Sometimes you both have bad days. It’s just coffee. Wonderful, delicious coffee that will be worth the extra twenty-second wait because you’ll be focused enough to nail that latte. So please Barista. Please Breathe.