Following hot on the heels of the London Coffee Festival, this Q & A Thursday falls slap bang in the middle of UK Coffee Week – a nationwide fundraising initiative which celebrates UK coffee culture – so what better time to talk coffee? Or more to the point – baristas.
While high street brands like Costa, Starbucks and Caffè Nero still dominate the market Allegra WCP’s annual study, Project Café17 UK reckons the ever evolving sector is seeing a change as SME (small and medium sized) boutique chains gain momentum and “…deliver authentic, artisan concepts at scale.” Indeed Allegra claims that the coffee shop will become the new local – outnumbering pubs by 2030!
So, we asked our consultants to tell us more about what it takes to be a Barista in this booming industry.
1. What is a barista exactly?
In Italy, where the word comes from, barista means “bartender” – because coffee and alcohol are often sold at the same outlets.
In the UK, however, a barista mainly focuses on making and serving espresso-based coffee – from the classic espresso to lattes, mochas and beyond.
2. Is it a real job?
We tend to think of the barista as a holiday job or part-time role. And, while it certainly can be the ever rising popularity of coffee means working with the bean is being taken ever more seriously.
The boss of global coffee platform Allegra, Jeffrey Young, told the Times: “Being a barista is a brilliant job that requires a great deal of knowledge and skill. We believe it should be as respected as the top sommeliers at the finest restaurants.”
3. Sounds great. But what do you actually need to be a barista?
If you’re taking it to the top level the Coffee Masters competition sums it up nicely: “Creativity, passion, skill, knowledge and personality …”.
But essentially there aren’t any specific entry requirements.
4. So, no formal qualifications?
Most baristas are taught on the job.
Although of course GCSEs in English and maths are useful and a food safety qualification wouldn’t hurt
But if you’re really serious about your coffee the City & Guilds Barista Level 2 VRQ (Vocational Related Qualification) – similar to a GCSE but workplace-related – promises to make a professional Barista out of you and is nationally recognised.
Or the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE), the world leader coffee excellence, offers a Coffee Diploma, which includes three levels of barista training.
But you won’t get anywhere without customer service skills.
5. So, customer service skills are key?
Yes – personality really matters if you’re going to set yourself apart as a barista.
So, hone your communication capabilities, cultivate your team working technique and hone your personal presentation. It’s important to stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons!
6. So what do the best baristas do?
As tastes become more sophisticated the appetite for artisan coffee products is on the increase, so it’s individual personalities like James Wise – winner of this weekend’s Coffee Master 2017 – who are getting the attention – and the great roles.
The skateboarding, tattooed twenty-something Wise epitomises the “career barista”, with what one Guardian piece called “… an odd combination of the laidback and the intensely serious.” Passionate about coffee he consistently practices his craft and creates new combinations – like his signature coffee-based cocktail, which features Campari, Amaro, Date syrup and Nicaraguan coffee vermouth.
But of course Coffee Masters is exceptional.
7. What does the everyday barista role entail then?
A typical day in the life of a barista will include: everything from opening and closing the venue to keeping it in a tidy, hygienic and welcoming condition in between.
You’ll be processing customer orders and payments, serving soft drinks of all kinds – as well as coffee – making and serving food, stock checking and ordering, tidying and cleaning.
So, you’ve got be ready to muck in, as well as make your mark.
8. So where are the roles?
As some jobs are taken over by robots the real-life Barista is in demand.
Due in part to sector growth and also to the probable Brexit effect – one report estimated that 40,000 baristas would be needed in the coming years!
And these roles can be anywhere from independent coffee houses to international chains. In between think: hotels, restaurants, contract caterers, exhibition spaces, cruise ships, and on.
9. Where can it take me?
Well, like the rest of the hospitality & catering sector once you show your worth you can make your way up the ladder pretty quickly.
Experienced baristas can become store manager and even regional managers. Or you might want to establish your own venue eventually.
The aforementioned James Wise, for example, rose to prominence in just a year after taking on a barista role to supplement his tattoo training. Now he’s Head of Coffee at a specialist City-based restaurant and coffee shop.
10. Any last thoughts?
Barista opportunities are likely to continue to grow over the coming years – and you can’t say that for all areas of the job market!
As the sector is evolving it’s becoming more specialised, which means more opportunity to work in a way and style which suits you.
Whether you’re a people person who happens to enjoy serving great coffee or you’re a creative with a passion for flavours and a dedication to your craft becoming a barista could be your entry to an exciting career.
Now over to you:
Have any thoughts on what you’ve read? Are you searching for a new job? Want to ask about your particular career issues? Got any burning questions we could put to future Q & Angel guests? As ever, we want to hear what you’ve got to say!
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