Often these days I’ve been asked how much importance I put on training and being trained.
For every aspect of life, if you want to succeed you should have a strong background. Knowing theory and then practicing. If you are an athlete and want to win you train. if you are a singer and want to be famous, you gotta train. If you are a chef and want to gain the Michelin star you gotta train. Right?
For coffee is the same. You gotta train. Know the basic rules and the raw materials you are working with. Explain the different blends or single origin to your potential customer. Help colleagues to improve their skills. Don’t confuse single origin with specialty coffee. Be Always ready to give the best customer experience even if it is not what we would order or consume.
Being a barista is like going to war every morning when you open your cafè. This is something no one can teach you. You learn by your mistakes. And it’s a taugh training. The hardest. In order to improve I just took a break from behing behind the bar. I learned from past mistakes, I gave myself time to understand better the role and then I came back for a new project.
But theory. Some people think that theory is just an optional, something that needs too much time. And employers too most of times don’t recognize how much added value a well trained and passionate barista can add to their business and team work.
Too many times I’ve seen untrained baristas just being put behind a bar not knowing exactly what to say in order to get a potential customer the best desidered experience. In most cases they master the latte art perfectly but lack that business mindset to just rock the thing!
Theory alone, on the other hand, is not enough. I am fully aware of it. But believe me, if you find an employee, colleague or just a coffee lover being passionate and dedicated enough to invest time (and money) in theory, you should keep her/him close, very close to you. If you think that a professional is too expensive for you, you don’t know yet how much it will cost you an unprofessional one.
Sooner or later you will have to replace her/him with someone else. Maybe once again you will choose an unskilled guy just in order to save money. And then history repeats.
Training schools play a major role in this field. They give you the skills that have to be developed later on your daily routine, on your job. Finding a mentor (far from being only a trainer) is essential: you grow as a person, you grow as a barista (or worker in the coffee field), you find someone to guide you and when you are ready you can take your next steps being confident enough you made the right choice.
Mentorship should be a practice welcomed in every field of life, from studies to work to sports. Unfortunately in Italy is not so common like in the U.S or U.K and many times youngsters find themselves having the skills but with no encouragement or support from a senior mentor. My advice is to strongly believe in yourself first, then find the field where you want to reach the best result possible and find someone that inspires you. Go straight to that person and tell her/him how much you appreciate her/his job, the attitude and why it is an inspiration for you. If it’s the right person you have a mentor to guide you through your first steps.