How many times you saw that weird reaction on people’s face when you say you are a barista. I guess almost every time you answer the question: “What do you do for living?”. Am I wrong? At least this is true in Italy, I’m sure that outside the country things are slightly different.
Every time someone asks me which is my job I see that they get so disappointed by my answer that in the beginning I just used to say that I was working in the coffee industry. But then people, usually, tend to go deeper. And they start asking questions like “why you studied so many year to be a barista”, “why you had to quit your job to become a barista”, “oh…did it happen something you chose to be a barista”.
This happen mainly because barista is still seen as a job to do while you study, something that do not require any specific skill except being nice and be able to push the button on espresso machine. Many yougsters tend to see barista as a second class job, they even prefer to be a waiter or to work in cocktail bars, but being a barista, brewing and serving coffee is still seen as something that a person with other choices won’t ever choose. A barista have Always been someone that “received” this mission by family, that’s why we have second generation baristas or third generation baristas.
This job have neever been something to invest time and money, to study, to go deeper on coffee research And even opening a bar have Always been like a chance to change life, like a second opportunity and that’s why being a barista have never become a real and recognized job here in Italy.
On the other hand we look outside Italy almost dreaming to be a rock-barista. Abroad our colleagues are seen like a kind of rock stars (something similar like what happened recently with chefs), they are wearing black tshirt, leather aprons, baseball hats and are all tatooed. They are cool.
But why looking outside when you could be “cool” and professional (it’s not all fancy and selfie time, someone has to load the dishwasher as well!) in your home town too? Maybe because what comes from “outside” seems Always cooler than what you see on daily basis.
Baristas are not recognized from society as high level workers because first of all we, as a category, should pretend to be respected. We must have decent working hours, good salary like other categories, good life/work balance (sometimes if you are a barista it’s almost impossible to have a stable relationship or a good private life), see our days off respected, ask for regular contracts with full welfare conditions and extra hours paid.
On the other hand we are the first responsible for the missing coffee revolution. As long as we remain simple workers that push the button on the espresso machine, how can we pretend to increase the prices of coffe? To see more interest in the coffee cup from our customers? To talk about specialty coffees in our cafès?
Study, go deeper, travel, see what is going on abroad, copy the successful techniques and most of all be brave, be curious, be prepared. We should do this revolution, we should be the first to see our job as something to be proud of, we should be happy to brew and serve the perfect cup of coffee.