Barista as a career

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Postby Peter G on Thu Dec 22, 2005 12:15 pm

I would love it if we could someday back up a professional distinction like you mention. At the moment, there is no recognized authority for accrediting baristi. (although the SCAA would be a logical body to do so) A number of folks offer "barista certifications"... some are good, some are bad.....don't get Barry or Tacy started on this subject. They've got a good point: most barista certifications have been pretty bogus. Then again, many culinary programs are pretty bogus, too.

Functionally, I personally see a barista halfway between a sommelier and a pastry chef. A chef is skilled in the broad arts of food creation and preparation. A pastry chef specializes in one field, sweets and pastry. A somellier is knowledgeable, and acts as the "steward" (caretaker) and ambassador of the wine. This is a good way to think of the barista's role as specialist, educator and advocate for coffee.

Peter
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Postby coffeeactivist on Thu Dec 22, 2005 12:36 pm

Peter G wrote:This is a good way to think of the barista's role as specialist, educator and advocate for coffee.


I love it.
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Postby Jimmy Oneschuk on Fri Dec 23, 2005 10:23 pm

With this logic, if I use an iRoast on some Daterra every now and then to serve to customers at the shop, do I deserve to be called a roaster?
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Postby Peter G on Sat Dec 24, 2005 10:28 am

I disagree. By my definition, a "Roaster" is defined as: "a person who roasts coffee as an integral part of their job description." This is the definition we developed to determine eligibility for membership in the roasters guild. This definition includes green coffee importers, who must sample roast daily as a part of their job, or roasting equipment manufacturers/repairpeople, who must know how to roast in order to test, train, and evaluate equipment. This definition excludes hobbyist roasters, and occasional roasters who may know how to roast coffee in the most perfunctory way, though it is not an integral part of their job.

By this same logic, I would define a barista as something like: "A person for whom coffee preparation, especially espresso, is an integral part of their job description". This could include barista trainers, espresso equipment repairpeople, and roasters who have developed a high degree of espresso expertise so they could become better roasters and blenders. It would exclude espresso hobbyists, home espresso enthusiasts, and those who occasionally pull a shot.

(Parenthetically, I will say that many home roasters and home baristi are better skilled than most of their professional counterparts... but it does not make them baristas or roasters, in the professional designation. A hobby is a hobby; and it is much different than making a living at something)

So, as for your example, since your occasional i-Roasting in the coffeehouse is casual, and not an integral part of your job, I think it would disqualify you from being a professional roaster.

Of course, the biggest problem with my definitions are that they lack a "skill" component. This is where education and certification issues creep in. A person can functionally be a chef, but some folks will not recognize them as such without an educational component. We don't have that issue in coffee, since there are no widely recognized formal training programs for coffee professionals. Therefore, many people use their own arbitrary skill-assesment to determine whether people are qualified to be called "barista" or "roaster". This is, in my mind anyway, a flawed system.

pg
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Postby fleck on Sun Dec 25, 2005 5:44 pm

By this same logic, I would define a barista as something like: "A person for whom coffee preparation, especially espresso, is an integral part of their job description". This could include barista trainers, espresso equipment repairpeople, and roasters who have developed a high degree of espresso expertise so they could become better roasters and blenders.


Peter,

I'm glad to hear someone (especially you) have the same opinion as me. I was told by a BGA member once (at the SCAA in Seattle) that as a full-time barista trainer who does not work regular shifts in the cafes that I would "not be an ideal" BGA member by definition, but that anyone can really join if they "want to" contribute. The focus of the BGA, I was told, is to promote the barista as a career and that I had stepped out of that roll. Of course, I train people (future career baristas) on how to pull shots, steam milk, work with different work-flow situations, work on a multitude of different machines, etc. But I guess, by definition, I'm not a barista. Why would I "want to" shell out $40 (or whatever it is) to an organization who doesn't think I'd be an ideal candidate as a member of their guild?

--Stephen
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Postby onocoffee on Sun Dec 25, 2005 8:42 pm

Stephen-

What idiot told you BS like that?

Feel free to e-mail me privately if you'd like.
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Postby trish on Mon Dec 26, 2005 11:07 am

Fleck wrote: I was told by a BGA member once (at the SCAA in Seattle) that as a full-time barista trainer who does not work regular shifts in the cafes that I would "not be an ideal" BGA member by definition, but that anyone can really join if they "want to" contribute. --Stephen


Yeah, but the by laws clearly say differently. Could have been someone's personal opinion there. Why do people let these little conversations completely discourage them? A guild is a member organization. You are the organization if you join it.

One time some one asked me,
"How come YOU get to start the BGA, Trish? You're not even a barista! Chris and Dismas aren't even really baristas anymore."

No one - and everyone - 'gets' to do stuff. It's all about what you feel like doing, really.
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Postby fleck on Tue Dec 27, 2005 2:20 am

Could have been someone's personal opinion there.

I think this particular situation was more personal and less general.
It's all about what you feel like doing, really.

I agree, right now i feel like going to sleep.

--Stephen
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Postby nick on Tue Dec 27, 2005 7:21 am

So... Stevie...

Now that that's cleared up... we'll expect your BGA membership application soon, right?!? :D
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Postby Marshall on Tue Dec 27, 2005 8:40 am

Well, for anyone who's interested, here's a bartender's view on the economics of tending bar. At Christmas supper I spoke with one of my wife's cousins, who tended a very busy bar for over 20 years and who also happens to really appreciate good coffee. (He gets his fresh from Mike Sheldrake at Polly's.)

He said one major reason you earn more pulling shifts in a liquor bar is the difference in customer etiquette. Coffee shop customers stand politely in a queue. It's obvious who came before whom, and they get served in the same order. In a bar, especially when it's busy, everyone crowds for attention, including customers and waiters. He said this is where bartenders make their real money, because good tippers get served first, before other customers and even before the waiters. In fact he defined "tip" as "to insure promptness" rather than "to improve performance."

I don't necessarily think this would be a good model for coffee shops, especially in the morning rush. But, I thought it was an interesting insight.
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Postby nick on Tue Dec 27, 2005 8:46 am

Marshall wrote:In fact he defined "tip" as "to insure promptness" rather than "to improve performance."

Funny you should mention that...

Caught a segment on The History Channel last week, which attributed "To Insure Promptness" (T.I.P.) to having originated in a coffeeshop in London.

But to your point, lifting a pair of Sapphire tonics up high in order to squeeze out of the crowd at the bar is one thing. You spill a little, no biggie. Do the same with our stuff? :shock:
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