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A Day in the Life of a Barista (sans complainy-tiredpants)

Updated: Jan 18, 2021

It’s a hard year(s? Happy 2021) for working in service. It’s important to remember the good though in the things you enjoy, or in this case, the thing you’ve spent 8…years doing. So here’s a day in the life of a legal drug dealer, and not the one that sells the green.

The current cafe I work at offers a bit of a different schedule. I am also in charge of some marketing and such which extends outside of my cafe hours. With things a bit slower in the winter, things have cut back a bit, but my schedule is most typically 4 days on, 10 hours each, and 3 days off. You get really comfortable with clo-pens.

7:15 AM: I like to get to the cafe earlier than the allotted 15 minute pre-open start time. This was a habit I started over the summer while living in the Matrix (the Toyota, not the dystopian future of simulated reality, although….) and use the utilities and such to get ready for the day, especially when it started getting colder out, it was just much easier to use the bathroom there to wash my face and change rather than the frost layered reservoir I stayed by. Once that was all dealt with, it was time to set the MOOD. Few lights, music on, batch brew weighed and brewing, pastries out, and espresso dialled in. Again, the set up has changed quite a bit while we work with regulations and such, so without any encouraged gathering or seating really, the list has gotten a bit shorter.

8:00 AM: OPEN, lights, mask, apron on. Door unlocked. Your own coffee made probably, if there’s no anxious patrons immediately needing their day started with their standard order. I love opening though. You get to set the music, and I run pretty typical with the folk, indie rock and pop sort of deal. Have a slow stream of customers and regulars which means you can put quite a bit of care into each drink and nail that latte art, and watch the sunrise every dang time (or just watch it slowly get lighter if it’s cloudy). My secondary doesn’t typically come in until an hour and a bit later, so when it stays slow or steady, it’s nice just to enjoy the start on your own. Easy going is the best way to put it.

The Day: Most of this is spent looking like I know what I doing, but most of the time, I don’t. Which is why having a secondary (And sometimes a third on weekends) is pretty handy for the mental checkouts. There’s a bit of running around while re-stocking, dishes, cafe stock orders, sandwich making, and sanitizer refilling. If I’m lucky enough, I might even get to make a few more coffees (I say somewhat sarcastically. My favourite place to be is at the steam wand, just listen to orders, and be the final pit-stop before sending out that coffee, you can find quite a good flow here.)

If it slows down, we’ll start taking turns taking a seat in the back, maybe with the back door propped open when the suns out. Days are long indoors, so any chance to step away are appreciated. I’ll also take a bit of time to get some marketing materials dealt with on the side. There’s general cafe maintenance and cleaning throughout as well, and a constant reset after rushes if we have them. Most of the time I’m usually just looking for something. What is it? Let me know if you know, because I’m lost apparently. A reason to move maybe.

Working in hospitality though, you learn to eat while standing, and do so when there’s time. The rushes sort of control your schedule here.

With it being slow, some of this time might be used to play a round or two of crib. I’m not great, but it’s fun. You also may learn a lot about your co-workers throughout the day whether you want to or not. 10 hours is a long time.

You may ask, being a barista, how many cups of coffee do you drink per day?

And I’d say, how many cups? Or how many litres.

just kidding. I max out at maybe 2-3 drinks. I spend most of my day tasting coffee and quality checking the batch brew. Maybe a pour-over to start the day, and treat myself with a milky drink (coffee or tea related) when the day starts dragging. No lie though. I really enjoy good decaf coffee.

Before I make you too jealous of this wow-so-epic ‘career’, we’ve come to

4:00-5:00 PM: Too early to start full closing duties, too slow to really stay occupied, but just busy enough to really put your focus else where. A lot more pacing comes here. The third (if present) would have left, your secondary helps with pre-closing duties and also parts a bit early, and we’re back to how it all started. The playlist has probably changed a few times, a few lights are starting to be turned off, and the empty espresso bags are set away, the only evidence left of what type of day it may have been.

6:00 PM: CLOSED. While you’re only scheduled till 15 minutes after, you might be out of there by 6:01, or 6:45. Depending on how much of the cleaning and resetting you could have done before closing, and of course if there was the absolute last minute order of 3 pour-overs and two lattes. It’s up to you as the clo-pener how much you want to leave for yourself in the morning to do, but I’ll typically reset just about everything. Afterwards, maybe ill have time for a run, home workout, maybe a bit of senseless video watching, but what I do miss is when staff would meet once a week after close for rants & beers.

So, working in coffee maybe requires 50% of actually working with coffee. About 30% would go to cleaning, and the rest to communication. It’s hard to count the blessings that is being able to stay quite social sometimes with some very difficult personalities you might come across and your own safety to consider, but I think during this time it can be quite rewarding… and exhausting.

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