blog from the ceo & superbarista of phoenix coffee, home of the best baristas in cleveland, ohio

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Way of the Barista

Sarah Dallas and Sasha started something.
They didn't know it at the time, though.
They coined a new phrase that I think will have some significance at Phoenix Coffee.
They were developing a few interview questions to be used during their new "working interview" for barista candidates. And one of the questions they developed was as follows:

"All professions included, why have you chosen to pursue the path of the barista?"

As I replayed this question it became "The Way of the Barista". I like the feel of this phrase; it suggests that being a barista is half job, half spiritual calling.

So what if being a barista was a spiritual calling? I contemplated that question today as I trained some folks from Banjoe's Cafe (at Hopkins Airport, proudly serves Phoenix Coffee) as well as our newest barista, the enthusiastic Ryan McCafferty, whose first "station" will be at the Lee Road cafe. As I pulled espresso shots and demonstrated latte art to the best of my ability, something in the pouring of the coffee and the milk, or in the water and the steam, gave me this strong sense of the primal, ancient practice of coffee. I saw coffee through a different light for a moment. Instead of being complex and challenging, it became simple and peaceful.

People have been making coffee for each other for thousands and thousands of years. Our contemporary practice of coffee now involves pressure-brewed crema and froth, but it's no more complex than the ancient Ethiopian coffee ceremony that Carl and Senait Robson from the Empress Taytu demonstrated for us at our Sips of Africa event earlier this month. The technology is different, but both have large requirements for intention and attention from the coffee preparer. And both the Ethiopian variety and the espresso variety revolve around the simple, compassionate act of one person making a beverage for another person. But at its core, the practice of making coffee for another person is a basic, accessible way for one human being to be of service to another human being. As part of that transfer, two life spheres overlap, for a moment or a few moments, without violence or conflict. Neither violence nor conflict has any place in or bearing on the act of making a cup of coffee for another person. Coffee is inherently peaceful and constantly serves to weave people together, one relationship at a time.

If those of us who work with and serve coffee on a daily basis are able to approach the task with this intention and understanding, it would only magnify coffee's natural beneficial effects.

I know Sarah Dallas and Sasha weren't asking me the question, but I guess if they did, my answer would be something along those lines.