As I announced earlier this year, there will be a number of guest writers on the site to give us different perspectives on Philly’s food scene. There are a number of articles coming your way in the weeks to come (along with two exciting new ones from yours truly), and the first one is from someone just that; a different perspective. You’ll see what I mean in a second.
I have to admit, I’m lagging behind in America’s newly found coffee culture. Mainly because I don’t drink coffee anymore. Of course, like any reasonably good Fishtowner, I make my weekly trips to La Colombe in search of fresh bread and pastries, but someone like me with the kind of ADHD that I have has no business drinking coffee. It does the opposite for me in terms of getting that morning kick that you all crave so much. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t recognize the level of dedication local coffee roasters and baristas alike have put into making sure that you view them on the same level of prestige as any chef in your city (see: La Colombe in Fishtown).
Which brings me to Greg Osisek, also known as The Blind Barista. It won’t take much to realize why he’s called that, but just in case you were wondering: Yes. He is legally blind, but that doesn’t stop him from churning out some solid caffein and food porn on his instagram (@blindbarista).
Remember me mentioning something about “different perspectives?” Yeah, this is what I was talking about.
Greg’s worked in a number of cities as a barista including Pittsburgh, New York, and now Philly. He’s one of the first wave of people who sent me an email after I announced that we’ll be taking on some guest writers and I genuinely enjoyed his article. I’m sure you as well!
How To Be A Regular At Your Local Coffee Shop
By Greg Osisek
2017 is upon us. New year! New resolutions! New Experiences! Philly’s food scene continues to explode, and coffee is no exception. If you’ve been thinking of trying out that new java joint in your hood, here are some tips to ensure you become one of their new favorite customers.
- Get To Know Your Barista
I’m not saying you should saunter up to the register at your local coffee shop, put on a shit-eating grin and say, “Hi, my name’s Jim, what’s yours?” out of the blue. Do that and after you leave the barista is sure to tell their co-workers, “that guy is fucking creepy!”
That said, more than roast date or bean selection, baristas are selling you an experience. A barista is, quite literally, a type of bartender. While our ingredients aren’t alcoholic, our end goal is the same – to give you the drink you want, and serve you in such a way that you continue to patronize our establishment. An experienced barista should know this and will try to start a conversation with you. Let them. The more each of you talk to and treat each other like human beings, the better experience you’re going to have. And like I said, it’s an experience we’re actually selling you.
- Ask Questions
All coffeeshops are not created equally. Walk into the hip, new third-wave shop and ask for a Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte and you may find yourself on the receiving end of an eye-roll and added, “Really? We don’t do that here.” I’m not saying it’s right. I’m just saying it happens.
If you’re new to a particular store, or to the coffee scene in general, it’s hard to know what’s available or what you may like. You could read the entire menu before ordering, but all the choices and options can be time consuming and downright exhausting. Who the hell has time for that? Plus, as I mentioned earlier, it’s the barista’s job to sell you the experience – so put that douchey hipster to work! It’s totally fine to tell the barista, “This is my first time here…” or “I normally go somewhere else and get a…” before asking what they would recommend for you. Just be open to trying new things because, as also mentioned earlier, not all coffeeshops are created equally. I typically tell new customers that if they order something new and hate it, I’ll absolutely make them something else they will like. So worst case, you get to try something for free!
- Understand Timing
This is tough to teach because it means admitting something about ourselves that many of us don’t want to:
We’re all selfish pricks.
When we’re shopping, in line, at the register, most of us rarely think about the customers behind us, the customers who just ordered, or the balancing act the person behind the register or bar is performing in order to make everything happen that each customer wants. We don’t give a shit. It’s our goddamn turn!
While it’s true that it’s the barista’s job to serve you, keep in mind that some times are better than others to get you the very best service. If it’s your first time in the store and you’ll need a little extra help, or you need a guide to help you select beans or other merch, avoid the morning rush (typically 7am to 10am) or the final hour of business. The middle of the day tends to be slower in most coffeeshops, which means the pressure is off the baristas and you’ll get warmer, more dedicated help.
- Say Please & Thank You
Don’t be a dick. Say please and thank you. It’s the right thing to do.
- Have your payment (and tip) ready.
Nothing holds up a line and annoys employees and fellow customers more than the person at the register rummaging through their wallet or purse for their payment. Surely this isn’t the first line you’ve ever waited in, is it? Whether using a card or cash, have your payment ready to keep the line moving.
As for tips, he questions most people ask are:
1) How much do I tip?
2) Is it better to tip in cash or on my card?
As for how much: It is the service industry, and as stated in #1 above, “a barista is, quite literally a bartender.” The way I would tip is like this:
If I were at a bar and ordered a $4 beer, I’d tip $1. Once my bill is over $5, I’d tip no less than 20% of the whole bill. Likewise, if I were in a coffeeshop and ordered a $2 cup of coffee, I’d tip $1. Once my bill is over $5, I’d tip no less than 20% of my bill. Some may balk at this because a barista’s base hourly wage tends to be more per hour than the average server or bartender, but it’s still the service industry. Anything you can do to show gratitude will be go a long way with who is waiting on you.
With regard to whether to tip in cash or via card, the safer bet is always cash. Some shops do a pay-out for credit card tips at the end of a shift, but others pool them and add them to paychecks (which means they’re taxed.) Neither is more correct than the other, but if you feel the barista has provided you with a level of service worthy of a tip, cash will ensure they receive it in a timely manner.
You can see more of Greg’s work on his Instagram here.
Interested in writing for Philly Food Porn? Send your article idea to PhillyFoodPorn@gmail.com!