40 Shades of Coffee – Thoughts from a Barista working in Melbourne

As we all know, well, the coffee-drinkers among us , Melbourne is renowned for its coffee (and food) culture. So as a barista, working in Melbourne, I thought I would share some insights into the beautiful world of hospitality with you.


I currently work at a small but very busy cafe in the South Eastern Suburbs. Since being in Melbourne I have worked a few places in the city, as well as in the suburbs. I don’t pretend to be an expert but I love what I do and love extending my skills each day!

Disclaimer – this post applies to my personal thoughts and experiences. Please note that I love working as a Barista and take a lot of pride in my coffee-making. Unfortunately there are obviously baristas out there who are not so keen on their work. Never-the-less, here we go!

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  1. Melbourne is literally made up of cafe after cafe after restaurant after bar and look – theres another five cafes. There are all sorts of cafes from hole-in-the-wall types, to 6 barista- strong joints that just pump it out all day. Whatever you prefer, or even if you don’t know what you prefer, you are guaranteed to find it here in Melbourne!
  2. Melbournians know their coffee. Well, they know what they like to order. Whether that be a flat white or a half-soy half-almond strong decaf cappuccino lots of foam no chocolate. Im not even kidding.
  3. Baristas are in high demand.
  4. This being said – if you say you are a Barista on your CV/resume, you better be able to pump out 4/5kg per day solo on a machine without help, otherwise you won’t get a look in at the coffee machine and be stuck busting your ass on waiting tables.
  5. Making coffee is an art form. For me, it is definitely where I get my creative kicks. I wouldn’t regard myself as a hugely arty or creative person, but I love making coffee and latte art.
  6. There are more types of milk than I ever would have known. I once worked at a place that had – here we go – Full cream, skinny, almond, soy,skinny soy, lactose free, low fat lactose free, coconut milk , and it left me with frustration like you would never believe in my life.
  7. You wonder why so many people are nasty to you when you are supplying them with their daily coffee.
  8. People are impatient and it is one of the most irritating human traits.
  9. For some reason, people place hospitality workers in the lowest form of human life category. I personally have been insulted, degraded and made to feel extremely inferior, as well as being called dumb and unskilled.Well I challenge anyone to try and work a day or two in the life of a hardworking hospitality individual. Timing and attitude are crucial. You try making 1/2 strength soy lattes and skinny mochas with 3 sugars and extra chocolate while you have about fifty coffees on order and have twenty people waiting for takeaway while that one person who just ordered try to take the coffee that is for the person twenty people ahead of them. huh. Then you’ll see.
  10. We try not to roll our eyes when you tell us that you want a large hot chocolate with marshmallows and the lot but skinny milk please “cuz I’m on a diet”. Mhmm. Yup. OK.
  11. We will try and remember your order, and your name, but please bear with us, we already know about 100 peoples orders off by heart and sometimes we just want to make the coffee and move on.
  12. We have lives outside of work. Boyfriends, friends, family,children. You are not more important than us just because you earn more money than us.
  13. In fact, I would argue that giving someone their cup of joy they so longingly crave every morning is a pretty darn important job.
  14. Please try and use your “pleases” and “thank-yous”. Your parents would be proud.
  15. If you are a regular customer, we probably know and love you. Or know and despise you. Whichever it is, we will make your coffee fast, but if we are busy and theres a ten minute wait, that means ten minutes for you too.
  16. A lot of people don’t realise that working in hospitality is not our life ambition or goals. Even for those who it is – and good on you,it can be very rewarding – a job shouldn’t define who you are as a person. Yes, I call myself a Barista, sometimes a waitress. But I also am a hiker, a snowboarder, a speaker of other languages, passionate about archaeology and diving, and the proud earner of a degree and a diploma. Just because right now I happen to be upskilling in one area of my life while I decide my next move, does not mean you need to look down on me. There is also nothing wrong with wanting a career in hospitality.
  17. I still love drinking coffee on my day off. Okay, sometimes tea though too.
  18. We usually drink way too much coffee, because it is on tap. Yet, myself, a lot of barista friends I have are not terribly fussy about the type of coffee they drink. The standard – yes, but the form it comes in – latte, flat white, long black – not so much. Usually when we are busy we drink whatever is leftover or wrongly ordered.
  19. We get it. When we go to a cafe or restaurant ourselves and there is a wait or something goes wrong, we are generally understanding (obviously a different story if there are a lot of workers standing around doing nothing).
  20. I personally love making someones day, and always try to give each cup the attention it deserves. Not all cafes do. But I put pride in my work and know that if it looks good, and effort has been given to it, it probably tastes good too
  21. We know what the difference is between a flat white and a latte. Please do not try to educate us on what you think the difference is if you don’t know. Ask us though, we will will explain!
  22. Again, saying please and thank you is a really good start to getting your coffee
  23. We love making coffee! Most of the time. Everyone has those days.
  24. Sometimes we make up latte art. Sometimes it works. Other times, we try it on a cappuccino so we can cover it with chocolate when it goes horribly wrong.
  25. I have days when I spill every liquid around me. Coffee, milk, chocolate sauce.
  26. Coffee grind goes everywhere. I mean EVERYWHERE. Its amazing when i’m cleaning at the end of the day and I find coffee. Like, how did it get there!
  27. We are not too proud to learn from another barista. I love picking up new handy tricks of the trade from other well seasoned baristas. Everyone has their own style.
  28. A coffee machine is only as good as the barista behind it.
  29. Thank you to every customer Ive had that appreciates the effort I put in.
  30. We like hearing your life stories. It keeps us going through the day.
  31. However, sometimes we need to concentrate and will put our head down. trust me, there are days when you just can’t multitask. Haha.
  32. Whatever you come to work wearing, accept that it will be a shade of brown when you leave work.
  33. Please don’t think because you skip the queue and march straight to the coffee machine that you will get your coffee straight away. We will most likely redirect you (sometimes not politely) to the back of the queue.
  34. I hate making coffee before I’ve sunk at least half my own morning coffee.
  35. People are awesome. I see so many kind, happy customers who are happy to listen and also share their own thoughts with me personally. I love hearing when things work out or to empathise with you when they didn’t go to plan.
  36. If I say ill just be a minute or will be with you in a sec, please don’t be impatient or sigh. Usually we will be finishing steaming milk or have to run our own coffee because the floor person is busy. I like to run coffees to the customer before they get cold and complain.
  37. Please refrain from ordering an extra extra hot latte if you are just going to sit there talking for 15 minutes and then complain it has gone cold. Seriously.
  38. If you come to the counter on your cellphone and try to order without putting your phone down and giving me the attention I deserve, I’m not going to take your order. Im a human being too and I deserve the same respect as you.
  39. Melbourne is a great place to be a barista!
  40. I have respect for baristas everywhere! Good on you and keep doing what you love! Don’t let the bad days make you forget the good ones =)

Cheers to everyone who reads this! Remember, treat others like you want to be treated! Everyone loves a good coffee and we love making them, but it gets stressful sometimes! (Think about your mood before coffee haha! )

Thats all for today kids. Happy Coffee Drinking!


One comment

  1. Courtz wonderful article and I enjoyed reading it all. Be across soon to sample all of Melbournes barista delights especially yours. Cheers. Dad


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