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Tip Your Barista, or Else.

The word TIP was initially an acronym for “To Insure Proper service.” At a restaurant or service station you would give a tip to the employee beforehand so they would perform their service to the best of their ability. Eventually the transaction shifted from before meals and services to after, and the word has not carried quite the same weight since. Cafés are one of the few places where you still have the choice to tip or not. Here are some thoughts on why you’ll benefit from tipping when you have the chance.

food-tippingMost baristas are paid by the hour. Depending on where you live and where they work they are probably in the $9/hour range which is a small step above minimum wage (in the US at least). So unlike waiters, their income does not depend entirely upon your generous gratuity. However, there is a big difference between the work a barista and, say, a fast-food or QSR worker does.

Baristas at high end coffee shops have a unique skill set. Espresso machines can be fickle and require a great deal of fine tuning. Usually baristas have to spend a significant amount of time before the day starts calibrating the machine and adjusting the grind to ensure that the shots are not too sour, bitter, weak or strong. Brewing coffee is a craft that the craftsmen appreciate more than most customers realize. It’s not uncommon to here a barista exclaim “That was a 27 second shot with crèma as thick as my finger!” This might not mean a lot to you, but good baristas are constantly chasing perfection. Each brewing method requires a series of precise steps that need to be performed at exactly the appropriate time. The goal is to give you the best drink in the shortest amount of time. No small task.

Baristas are the quality control between you and your morning beverage, and they probably had to persevere through a series of training sessions that made sure they knew everything possible about the coffee you get to drink. They have practiced and practiced to make sure that you get your drink in three minutes or less so that you can move on with your day.

As a side note, the barista’s hands are the ones that decide whether you get a regular or decaf mocha. Most aren’t vindictive enough to take revenge, just know that’s a possibility.

You probably heard about the recent Bitter Barista scandal. A young employee from a Georgetown coffee shop was ousted as the writer of the popular blog and lost his job as a result. His snarky comments by no means represent the normal attitude of baristas towards their job, but they do reflect a certain disenchantment that workers have with their customers. Could he have been happier with just a little more customer love? Who knows.

So tip your baristas. They try to brighten your day with a perfectly crafted beverage. Try to brighten theirs with a little extra gratitude.

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