I was a barista.
We are moving in a lot of directions at once right now so it's hard to really say what I have moved from barista to doing specifically. As I go forward, given the reputation I had on bar, there has been a lot of discussion by those in our circle and around us that is making me feel a bit introspective. One friend described my time behind bar as a cult with it's own mythology. Like the legend of what we were doing behind bar became greater than the actuality. In some way, I agree because we were doing a lot of things that were very progressive at the time though more common now, the void after it suddenly stopped created an emptiness I myself sometimes struggled to fill. Another friend related to me yesterday that it was like the first battle of the civil war. Without the press and attention or had competing shops and our roaster taken us more seriously, we would not be here because it should have been over before it started.
I am easily willing to attest to the fact I wouldn't be dabbling in roasting or sourcing if I had not had so much friction with roasters and middlemen when I was on bar. That friction literally gave us a name and in part allowed us to second guess and test everything freeing us from the almost ideological obsession many get working with one roast style. I might have had a hand in sourcing some equipment and gone that direction but you can never say for sure. The thought has occurred to me more than once I could have been a working barista for much longer had I not been forced down the road of learning what was going on with the roast. When you are not in control, you might be encouraged to take the next step forward, more of a plunge and you either sink or swim which remains to be seen.
At that point, the vision of a large cafe with multiple SOE and a sweeping bar laden with top notch barista and dual espresso machines went down the drain like a sink shot. We shifted directions because it was no longer an option when you didn't have a product to believe in. Now my focus is set on training and working on concepts that will play a supporting role to others in the cafe. That means, some light roasting duty for limited volume and a heck of a lot of ambitious focus on getting some unique gear and equipment to play in cafes. To which a huge syphon post is about to land on barismo...
I guess it's true of anyone who tries to focus on the task at hand with seriousness and pride. You expect a lot and you desire to deliver but rarely do things align where you can actually deliver. You get the equipment, you find the training, and then finally, you realize you cannot control the coffee or function in the bureaucracy. Coffee becomes the last uncontrolled variable in the equation. This leads the obsessive types having urges to begin moving backwards in the supply chain to try and take total control of the product.
Coming in as a barista may actually be a blessing. I know it brings a specific perspective to how I approach everything.
I have had some pretty good shots in the lab lately and I feel a little yearning to get back on bar though that is quickly quashed by discussions of ghetto lattes and blender drinks. Really, it's almost a fear I can't bust out and tune that shot in the middle of a rush anymore but I know I can even if it may take a day or two to get my mojo back. I do prefer to play backup these days and just focus on tuning shots and training. To let someone else pull shots and work the blend giving advice and only stepping in when it's not getting closer is much less stressful. Quite enjoyable if not quite as sexy as the dream of the cafe that someday will happen.