Bean there, brewed that: tips from a barista

Grace Leake

Haggard and zombie-like, students trudge to their 8 a.m. classes. Their eyes are dull, their movements sluggish. Dark circles hug their eyes. When they speak, their voices slur nonsensical, drifting words.

What can be done for these piteous beings? Only one (legal) cure is known — caffeine. Many college students crave a caffeine fix to push them through their early morning classes and late night study sessions. As one of many students rushing through coffee shops every day, it’s important to consider what you can do to have the best possible interaction with your barista. Here are some things to consider from when you begin your order to the moment you decide whether to tip.

First off, you should know what you want by the time you get to the counter. If you’re taking a lot of time with your decision, you’re preventing your barista both from taking other customers’ orders and from making drinks, squandering everyone’s time. Especially in the bustling coffee shops near campus, it’s common decency to know what you’re ordering before you get to the counter so that you don’t inconvenience yourself or others. Don’t be that student sprinting into the already-quiet classroom, your professor’s bushy grey eyebrows furrowing at you and your Caffe Medici coffee that you stood hesitating 15 minutes to order. 

You should also be detailed with your order. There are many factors that go into customizing a cup of coffee. Do you want it hot or iced? Do you want it for here or to go? What type of milk do you want? You might feel awkward or pretentious giving your barista so much information, but we appreciate it. Your barista isn’t
psychic. Let us know what you want and streamline the process for both of us.

Similarly, if you’re visiting an independently owned coffee shop, know the difference between your favorite Starbucks drink and the actual coffee equivalent. I’ve had many customers ask for a macchiato and then act surprised when they get the real thing – two shots of espresso lightly touched with foam. Starbucks recipes are way different from the traditional drinks, and if you need clarification ask your barista for it. Yes, we baristas are going to judge you a little bit for not knowing what you’re doing. Still, we are happy to lead you along the long journey of pretentious coffee jargon to help you find your next favorite drink.

Even if you do botch your order, don’t hesitate to ask your barista to fix it. Before I became a barista, I accepted subpar drinks because I felt that asking my barista to remake them would be obnoxious. Trust me, it’s not. If you aren’t loving your drink, I want to remake it. 

Lastly, what many people find the most terrifying question: Do you leave a tip? Friends frequently ask me in hushed, guilty tones if they should feel bad about not tipping. While your barista doesn’t expect a tip, it’s a sweet gesture and tips form a pretty substantial portion of baristas’ income at a non-chain coffee shop. In my experience, at least 80 percent of my customers leave a tip and tips make up more than 40 percent of my pay. So while your barista probably doesn’t anticipate it, tipping is a good move to make. 

At the end of the day, this process is simple: communicate your needs, respect your barista, and walk away with a cup of coffee that will help you survive another wild day at UT. 

Leake is a Plan II and Business freshman from Austin. Follow her on Twitter @grace_leake.