Many people love coffee and cafes and may get mesmerized seeing baristas work, pour coffee, and make latte art. As a result, many people dream of becoming a barista and working in a lively, pumping cafe. However, is being a barista a career or a dead-end job?
Being a barista can be a career, as it can be the stepping stone into a career in coffee as a master roaster, sourcing agent, trainer, store manager, and more. You also get to learn the ins and outs of a cafe operation, preparing you to own your own cafe in the future.
This article explores the question of whether being a barista is a career. It also looks at the work a barista does and the potential career path for a barista. Finally, the article explores the darker side of being a barista.
What Does A Barista Do?
Barista’s core job is to make coffee and coffee-based beverages. Depending on their work conditions, they may serve customers, clean up the tables, and engage in prep work. Baristas are also expected to advise customers on suitable coffee based on their preferences.
The term ‘barista’ originated from Italian, referring to either a male or female ‘bartender’ who works behind a counter. These bartenders tend to serve beverages, be they hot, cold, or alcoholic. They also serve light snacks.
The term has been known to be used in Italy and Spain as early as 1916. However, the term barista today generally refers to a coffee bartender working at a coffee house.
The core job of a barista is to make coffee and coffee-based beverages. These drinks may range from the most basic Americanos to iced coffee and variations of coffee with milk, such as Latte, Cortado, Cappuccino, or Flat White.
Some baristas also serve coffee to customers, depending on their job requirements. However, some cafes can have really busy baristas who only focus on making drinks, with servers taking over the tasks.
Many baristas are also capable of making non-coffee beverages, such as chocolate or tea-based drinks. Due to competition, many cafes that primarily serve coffee also offer alcoholic beverages.
This means some baristas may be able to pour a pint of beer or serve wines well.
Aside from making drinks and serving them, baristas may also work cleaning up the tables and maintaining the machinery and tools used while making coffee. Many also engage in preparation work, such as roasting or tasting coffee.
Baristas can also be considered coffee experts, usually having extensive knowledge and understanding of different types of coffee worldwide.
This allows them to recommend the right type of coffee for you to enjoy, depending on your preference. This makes a barista much like a sommelier, but for coffee instead.
Is Being A Barista A Career?
Being a barista can be a career, as it can be seen as an entry-level position in the coffee or food and beverage industry. Baristas may graduate into higher level work such as managers, trainers, master roasters, coffee procurers, or more. Some baristas also opened their own cafes or other coffee-related businesses.
If you are wondering if being a barista is a career, you are correct. Barista is not a dead-end job and may lead to a career in the coffee industry. You may also pick up skills that can be useful in the general food and beverage or hospitality industry.
Generally, people may enter the coffee industry as a barista, learning the basics of the coffee, food, beverage, or hospitality industry before transitioning into leadership or expert positions.
Here are some possible career options you may enter after becoming a barista for a few years:
Suppose you have worked in a cafe for a while. In this case, you may have learned the ins and outs of the cafe’s operations. You know when products get delivered, how to arrange and prepare the tables, the procedures before opening the store, and more.
This means you are ready to be entrusted to lead the store’s operations. At this point, you may be fit to become a store, cafe, or operations manager. This may come with more responsibility, but of course, a higher pay too.
Part of barista training is to undergo coffee tasting in the cafe on and off to learn about coffee types, origins, and tastes. You also spend time mastering how to make coffee drinks, and make funny, cute latte art.
You may also have mastered the finer side of being a barista, such as being friendly and able to connect with customers on a social level.
This means you can now train other baristas in the art. You can consider taking up the position as a trainer with your company or branch out and start your own barista school.
If you are knowledgeable about coffee and want to create and produce your own unique coffee blend and roast one day, then this is the path you may consider. You may spend your days manning coffee roasters and tasting coffee, which can appeal to some baristas.
Master roasters are typically very knowledgeable about coffee. Usually, they have a sharp sense of picking up notes and flavors from the coffee. You may want to hone this as a barista if you are keen to become a roaster yourself.
When you can distinguish, taste, and pick up very specific notes from any coffee you drink, you can consider trying out the job of a coffee importer or procurer.
Depending on your work conditions, you may spend time flying between countries, visiting coffee plantations, and testing the coffees they produce. You can then decide whether to purchase these beans for your company or the master roasters.
Starting Your Own Cafe
Some people become baristas to learn the ins and outs of operating a coffee shop. They labor day and night to learn the tasks, perfect their skills, and build connections with suppliers and customers.
Once those are sorted out, they may either use their savings to open their cafe or seek help from investors to open one.
Starting a cafe is not a walk in the park, as you will technically be taking control of all aspects of the operations. Without the right skills and ability, your investment may burn quickly, and your cafe may not take off.
Some baristas ended up being involved in businesses but not as cafe owners. They typically build businesses that may serve the coffee industry or coffee drinkers.
For example, suppose you become the winner of your country’s barista championship. That means you have a certain clout. You can leverage the clout, build a social media following, and become a coffee influencer.
Some baristas also identified certain problems they faced when performing their work and developed a solution for them. These solutions could be a tool or machinery, for example. They then launch a company around the product and market it to cafes and coffee chains.
Some also launched their own coffee products, leveraging their experience and understanding of coffee drinkers’ tastes.
Is There A Downside To Being A Barista?
Despite the luster and glamor of being a barista, you may be required to spend long hours preparing, making, and serving coffee. You also need to entertain and manage difficult customers and perform physical labor such as carrying, moving heavy things, and cleaning work.
Many people may be drawn into a career as a barista, mostly from observing how these baristas work in hipster-like, nicely decorated cafes and pull beautiful coffees. Some may also have seen baristas at work on TV and dream of becoming one.
However, the reality of the work is not as rosy. Most baristas do not just make coffee. They often have to spend long hours laboring at the cafe. These tasks may include preparing, making, and serving coffee and entertaining and dealing with difficult customers.
On top of that, most baristas have to engage in physical labor such as carrying supplies, moving heavy objects, and performing cleaning duties. Many machinery and tools in the cafe also need to be maintained.
Another issue is the generally lower pay. As an entry position, baristas may look glamorous. Still, the pay is similar to entry-level service positions, such as waiters or bartenders. Most baristas in the US make an average of between $10.10 to $14.90 an hour, which is considered a lower-range wage.
You may need to spend years laboring under low pay before progressing into higher-level positions. This is something you need to consider before entering the industry.
All in all, becoming a barista is a great career path for those who are passionate about coffee and are looking for a job that is creative and engaging.
Baristas are expected to have a strong knowledge of coffee and the ability to brew a variety of drinks. Additionally, baristas must be friendly and have excellent customer service skills.
With the right attitude and training, becoming a barista can be a rewarding job that offers a variety of opportunities.
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Alex is a self confessed coffee addict – but he takes his love of caffeine seriously in a completely responsible way. He loves trying new coffees and testing the latest machines and is not usually fan of one button pod machines. Alex is happiest when he is tinkering with settings and milk temperatures to create the perfect cup. When not obsessing over coffee, Alex is a keen musician and plays weddings and other social events (usually fuelled by… yes, you guessed it… coffee).