i'm a creep, i'm a weirdo

been awhile since i've posted, but the good news is we are growing and getting new customers all the time.
i've been told by more than one customer that we should be call our coffee "crack" since the flavor and quality is so addictive. and it continues to fill my heart with joy when people tell me i've ruined starbucks and coffee bean for them, now that they know what good espresso is supposed to taste like.

and for all the wonderful comments and compliments, we still get our share of weirdos. like the espresso "expert" who complained when we made her iced americano by adding the shots to ice, instead of putting the hot shots directly into the plastic cup:
"i used to work for an exclusive cafe in seattle and you are never, NEVER supposed to pour hot shots over ice. it makes the espresso taste bitter."
"hmm," i wondered, "wouldn't the taste of melted plastic be even more displeasing?"

and the seemingly normal woman who asked for an ice water and sat in our store for an hour, filling me in on all the latest details of her life (just released from the hospital, thieving roommates, recent divorce, kids messing with her phone) even including the fact she'd thrown a pair of underwear away in our trash because she'd just started her period.

and the bug man who has become a semi-regular customer (no more roaches, however!) who has been very nice and chatty, but still has a strange affect. at least now i actually see him taking a sip of his coffee before he leaves.

so, for the most part my weirdos are innocuous, if not a tad annoying. but i am happy to report the supermassive blackhole of emotional need customer has officially been 86'd from my coffee house.
it's something i never had to do at bux (though we got close a couple times) and i never in a million years thought i'd have to do in my own cafe, but it is for the best and i feel SO MUCH FRIGGEN' BETTER knowing i won't have to listen to hours and hours of negativity, ranting and complaining every week.
this customer was not only exhausting to talk with, but he was also making my other patrons uncomfortable. he became very possessive of me, clearly hating when i would have conversations with anyone else and giving everyone the stinkeye when they hung out. it got to be way too much, and yesterday he crossed a line that can't be uncrossed which is why he is no longer allowed in my store.

here's hoping this is the first and last time i have to ban someone from my coffee house.



roaches happen.
it's true.
in any food service industry, whether it be full service restaurant or coffee house, you will attract cockroaches. it's just a matter of fact and that is why i get regular pest control service.

in my part of the world german cockroaches are the biggest bother because they are resilient and populate quickly. you can't wait until you see evidence of an infestation to call the bug man. or you can, but will have to deal with roaches for days, if not weeks, while you wait for the effects of the pesticides to do their magic.

being in the food service industry for as long as i have, i've seen plenty of these german cockroaches. i hate them. they are quick and unafraid and i revel in finding their upturned carcasses. and because i've seen so many, i can tell when a roach is of a different variety.

cue weird customer who came in last week.
he claimed to have been meaning to come into my coffee house for weeks. he asked questions, like how long we'd been in business, did we have a lot of customers, etc. at first i thought he was from a rival coffee house (believe it or not i've had more than a few "fishers" come in or call me, digging for info on my coffee blends), but it soon became clear he really didn't know much about coffee. he didn't even know how to order it. he stood at my counter for close to five minutes. it was like extracting teeth just to figure out he wanted a large black coffee.
and then he made sure to sit in a chair just in front of my register and continued to talk to me, though he never once took a sip of his coffee.

low and behold, during our conversation, i saw a roach walking on my counter. not a small, dark german cockroach, but a larger, very light brown roach. i swiftly killed it and it was at that point he informed me that he worked for a large and well-known pest control company. he asked me who i used, and spend the next few minutes pitching his services to me. he then left, without ever drinking his coffee.

now i'm not saying it's impossible for a non-german roach to make it's way into my store. i'm not even saying non-german roaches can't coexist with the german ones. but what i am saying is i haven't had a single roach sighting since, and this guy has contacted me by phone to quote me his service charge, even though i've told him i'm quite happy with my pest control guy.

if he calls again i'll just tell him to quit bugging me.


the fussies

so, i've mentioned before that i have a wonderful set of customers. i'm lucky to be in a city that really embraces and supports local businesses, and i know many of my regulars pass a bux or two on their way to my coffee house. as we get busier, our clientele gets more varied, which means i'm beginning to see the kinds of personalities i would deal with on a consistent basis when i worked for bux.

we have a duo of women who use our coffee house as a weekly meeting ground. i guess they picked us because we are equidistant to the both of them, because they certainly don't seem to care that we have organic coffee or free wifi. in fact, every time they come in there always seems to be an issue with their drinks.

the first time they both wanted decaf lattes, but one of them forgot to tell me.
"i'm PREGNANT!" she stressed aggressively.
so, without matching her attitude, i remade her latte.

the next time they showed up the non-pregnant one asked for a vanilla latte. remembering the decaf fiasco from before, i verified her order, and asked if she wanted decaf again.
"no, HALF-caff" she half-growled.
so i made her half-caff vanilla latte and after two sips she informed me it was supposed to be sugar-free vanilla. yup - yet another modifier she failed to inform me about WHILE I VERIFIED HER FRIGGEN' ORDER!

the third time they came in mr. brat made their drinks. he didn't give me the details of that encounter, he only informed me he was now calling them "the fussies" because nothing seemed to make them happy.

cue to earlier this week. the pregnant one wanted only water, and i was somewhat surprised she didn't have a complaint about the temperature or the amount of ice i put in. her friend, however, wasn't going to let me off scott-free.
"i want my usual," she told me.
"half-caff sugar-free vanilla latte?" i verified the order. but seeing it was insanely hot that day i figured i'd ask if she wanted it hot or iced.
"oh definitely iced!" she fanned herself with hand.

so i made her iced half-caff sugar-free vanilla latte and handed it to her.
"oh, i wanted it blended," she said as she wrinkled her nose.

so, again without attitude, i remade her drink. when she saw i was making it from scratch instead of just tossing her drink in the blender she said "oh, you didn't have to totally remake it!"

um, yeah right.


music people

ok, i have to admit one of the BEST things about running my own coffee house is getting to handpick what's on my playlist.

you might remember the numerous rants i had regarding the horrid choices bux/hearmusic made (or were forced to make by record companies who were supporting the corporation) when creating the mix cds that were played on a continual, tortuous loop. often times the music would be mostly innocuous, easy to tune out during a busy rush, but the bulk of the time we were forced to listen to a cacophony of warbles and shrills - joni mitchell, i'm talking to you!

there were only two times in all my bux history that i approved of the music (because, you know, seattle needed to worry about what i thought, haha). at my first bux we had a reggae cd which also featured tons of ska bands. it was like a party every time that cd played, but the cds were supposed to be time sensitive and one day the it would no longer play.
until i figured out how to force play it.
of course at this time i was working with a partner named adam who acted so much like a passive aggressive girl that i called him "madam". one day i came in to bux to find the reggae cd was nowhere to be found. looking over the schedule at who opened that morning i saw it was madam. knowing he was the sort to be a killjoy, i checked the wastepaper basket. sure enough, there was the reggae cd, broken into three parts. of course, since it was the only cd i could tolerate, i was very pissy about madam's actions. BME (best manager ever) ordered me a new cd, and although madam admitted to throwing the cd away because "it didn't work", he denied breaking it, claiming instead it must have broken into three pieces when he tossed it into the empty trash can.
i mean, if you're going to be a dick, own it. yeah?

so now at my coffee house i play only what i like.
and i absolutely love when customers come in and ask who's playing (IAMX, nixon, morten harket, ampop, maria mckee) and when they profess their own love for what i have piping in through the speakers (adam ant, sneaker pimps, a-ha, portishead, shakespears sister). i've never once had anyone ask me to change the song, which was an almost daily occurrence at bux, and i've even had a record label contact me and send me some cds of a band to listen to and play in my coffee house if i thought they were any good (their name is the belle brigade, and yes they are).

but one of the funniest music related customer interactions happened yesterday:
fellow strip mall worker: "who this?"
brat: "it's lily allen."
fellow strip mall worker: "ah, yes. she has a little funny music, but cute. i like."
brat: "yeah, i love her, too."
fellow strip mall worker: "she has blonde hair, yeah?"
brat: "uh, no, she has dark hair."
fellow strip mall worker: "yeah, yeah, she have dark hair but was blonde before, yes?"
brat: "not really..."
fellow strip mall worker: "yes, she wear funny costume. have blonde hair, is very popular. funny songs, but i like."
brat: "i think you're thinking of lady gaga."
fellow strip mall worker: "no, it lily allen. funny costume, blonde hair."


everyone's an expert

being a relatively new coffee house, i get unsolicited bits of advice all the time from customers.
it can range from small suggestions: "get a prettier tip jar so people will want to toss their change in" to comfort requests: "you should put some tables and chairs outside, that way we can hang out with our dogs while we drink your coffee".
and sometimes they're a little too specific: "you should organize your flavored syrups alphabetically".

but yesterday i had the most bizarre suggestions from a woman i'd never seen before, and wouldn't mind not seeing ever again.

she was in her mid-50s, very well put together, and by her accent i'm assuming she originally hailed from eastern europe. she opened my front door and totally ignored me when i greeted her, instead standing in the doorway and scanning my coffee house like the borg.
"you make food?" she asked without making eye contact, her head still turning on a swivel.
"no, we make coffee and espresso drinks." i told her.
"but i'm hungry!" she rolled the last syllable into a whine befitting a toddler.
"there's a restaurant just on the corner." i pointed to the small cafe in our strip mall.
she waved her hand to shut me up and shook her head, again whining "but i want organic."
i could only shrug, since we clearly are not a restaurant.

at this point she decided to come inside my coffee house and have a proper look around. she checked out the condiment bar, our community corner where our customers display their business cards and show announcements, and she tried to peek inside our backroom.

"you don't make food?" she asked in disbelief.
"nope, just coffee." i reiterated.
"just coffee?" she was incredulous. "but how do you expect to survive just making coffee?"
again, my only response was to shrug. considering coffee houses originated much closer to her part of the world than mine, i was kind of shocked she had such little faith in them being successful enterprises.
"you should make food." she emphasized by pointing her finger at me.

i was a bit surprised when she actually bought a loaf slice, a doppio espresso, and complimented me on the taste. but her happiness was fleeting because she then proceeded to harangue me again about serving food.

"i have no space to put cooking equipment in." i told her, hoping this would be an irrefutable statement.
"get rid of these!" she pointed the comfy chairs and tables. "you know what else? you should offer yoga classes. everyone can get their coffee then do yoga!"

maybe i should take it as a compliment that she wants me to be successful, but i mostly think she was pretty clueless.

so no - the brat will not be serving food or leading yoga classes.
somehow i think we will still survive.


super massive black holes of emotional need

i've been stuck on this blog post, editing and re-editing it for two days. i'm trying to find a balance between professional coffee house owner and the down to earth brat you've always known. i'm trying to be diplomatic when it comes to the things i need to vent about, and i'm also trying to keep my identity veiled as i am now really, REALLY concerned about people reading what i write and realizing they're the ones i'm ranting about!

oi. i need to quit telling my customers about "this little blog i used to do", and i definitely need to quit accepting facebook friend requests from them! i'm at the point where i'm worried i will have no space of my own to unload, be stupid or make comments without one of my regulars coming in the next day to ask about a song lyric i posted, or which one of my attractive friends is single.
as i'm typing i realize i've brought this upon myself. but like i said, now it's a matter of finding that balance.
yes, i want to gripe about a customer whose negativity was so heavy last week, it put me into a funk that lasted a couple days, but i also want to keep this person as a regular customer because most of the time i enjoy our conversations.

this is an issue i honestly did not anticipate. being a small independent coffee house means your customers have more access to you. in a way, you are the coffee house. they come to see you specifically, in addition to buying your beverages. i always knew baristas were part time therapists and counselors, but with a select few of my customers it feels like a full time job. maybe some of them weren't hugged enough as children. maybe some of them are genuinely angry every waking moment. maybe my coffee house is the one place they feel comfortable enough to unload without fear of repercussion.
if the latter is true, then i definitely don't want to do anything to jeopardize that. i like being someone's bright spot. i enjoy feeling like i've made a positive difference in someone's life. but i am not loving the darkspace i go to after a lengthy visit from a volatile and emotionally needy patron. it seriously felt like all the light and positivity had been sucked out of me, and i needed a refill.

and unfortunately, i ended up doing what was done to me to another one of my regulars (yeah, this sentence is convoluted and awkward but i haven't the energy to clean it up).
complaining customer was still in the store, spewing negativity, when upbeat customer came to order an espresso. i verbally latched onto upbeat customer, wanting to keep engaged with him as long as possible because i knew once he was gone, the lightness would leave my coffee house and i'd be stuck with complaining customer again.
i'm sure my desperation was obvious and repelling, but i couldn't help myself. i needed to hold onto a lifesaver to drag me out of the putrid pond i was sinking in. poor upbeat customer had no clue what he was in for, and it was painful for me to watch him try and gently ease himself out of my store. and although i knew i was chasing him away with my desperation, i couldn't help myself.

in a weird way this experience has helped me identify with my complaining customer and empathise with him/her. perhaps this might help keep me from being affected so deeply his/her negativity.
one can hope, right?


the more things stay the same, the more they change

well, i've been back to the barista grind for 6 months now, and i have to say i really, really love what i do.
i'm still the hard working barista who actually cares about making a quality beverage while making a customer connection.
every month my business grows and every week i have new regulars who can't get enough of our coffee. i can't tell you how gratifying it is to hear on a daily basis how much better our beverages are than those of coffee bean and starbucks. in fact, i've only ever had one complaint, and it was a really odd one, in my opinion.

one of our regular customers has a wife who is very picky about her espresso drinks. she ordered a small mocha from me, and returned the next morning to complain about it.

"do you make your mochas with coffee or espresso?" she asked.
"uh, we use espresso for our bar drinks," i informed her, puzzled by her question.
"oh, because it tastes like you used coffee." she replied.

knowing most customers will be accustomed to corporate chain drinks, i explained that my beans are not over-roasted, nor are they acidic or bitter, which might explain why she felt her beverage wasn't "strong" enough in flavor. i offered to make it again and double pull the espresso shot for her (yes, i have a traditional manual bar like every coffee house should) so it would have a fuller espresso flavor, that way she wouldn't have to pay for an extra shot of espresso.

she was willing to try a double pulled shot but made sure to tell me, "yeah, it's better but it still tastes like coffee and not espresso."

all i could do is shrug.
my espresso will NEVER taste like bux espresso, and my regulars are thankful for that. i have worked VERY closely with my roaster to create a unique blend especially for my coffee house. i will never brew coffee that tastes burnt or bitter. even when i worked for bux, i was all about quality made beverages and now i have the pleasure to ensure even my beans are of the highest quality (and organic, mind you).

but it's not JUST the coffee that keeps my regulars coming back. it's the all around experience of my place. when you love what you do, and you love interacting with customers, they love supporting you. it's as simple as that.

so, this blog is clearly going to have a change in tone. i don't have to deal with idiot bigwigs in seattle. i don't (not yet, at least) have to put up with entitled and prissy customers. and i don't have to deal with lazy baristas since we are a total mom and pop shop at the moment, which means no more rants!

i understand if having less things to bitch about means a decrease in readership, and honestly i'm ok with that. i hope those of you still following this blog will be ok with the more upbeat attitude :)


too busy to blog!!!!

let me tell you - working for yourself is very rewarding and extremely fatiguing. i have meant for months and months to do updates and let you know how things have been going with my new venture, but honestly i just haven't had the energy.

the quick recap is my coffee house is starting to make a name for itself! we've had amazing reviews on yelp.com, and a slew of regulars who remind me several times a day why i love being a barista.
so far there's been no horror stories, but again i'm not seeing nearly the amount of people i did while working at bux.

to tide you over until i have time to give you a proper update, here is the first episode of barista buddy's web series about working for a corporate coffee chain:

there are more episodes at Moby's Coffee Shop

i hope all of you have been well!