Barista dishes on the daily grind at Goodrich Coffee Bar

Amy Nguyen '12 has recently been battling her distaste for coffee by becoming a barista at the Goodrich Coffee Bar.
Amy Nguyen ’12 has recently been battling her distaste for coffee by becoming a barista at the Goodrich Coffee Bar.

As a former aggressively loyal tea enthusiast, I have no problem admitting my past failed attempts at enjoying coffee. The first time I ordered coffee, I drank it “straight” – no cream, no sugar and no milk. In my defense, I was sleep-deprived to the point of delirium, but, needless to say, this initial encounter set my caffeinated journey on the wrong foot. The thing is, however, I am incredibly intrigued and enamored of coffee. The soulful complement to good conversation, coffee is a classy drink, not to mention that it has the capacity to energize and enrich people’s days and drive them through a late night. It was with this track record and this inexplicable yearning to understand an arch nemesis that I became a Goodrich Coffee Bar barista this fall.

Like the life of any busy student, the life of a barista is constantly moving. In the morning, there are always orders to take, coffee to be brewed and bagels to be toasted. With this comes a burgeoning sense of familiarity; the faces of fellow Ephs (along with their orders) become ingrained in memory. For me, even after only a few weeks, the motions have become, in many ways, instinctual: I become one with the toaster. The sound of toasted bagels softly hitting the metal tray becomes my cue, my call to action, setting off a chain of movements, culminating with a shout of “JALEPEÑO ON BLUEBERRY!”

Outside of the beloved bagel territory that I have come to call home lays the place where I have yet to hone my skills and where the real magic happens, the espresso machine. The creation of espresso drinks involves an unbelievable amount of creative craftsmanship. In addition to the lattés, cappuccinos and other drinks that the menu offers, baristas often create drinks of their own.

Leah Lansdowne ’11, the Coffee Bar personnel manager, helped guide me in the ways of the barista. “There’s the Thursday Night Orgy that’s epic,” she said. “[It existed] simply because we had a syrup called orgeat. From there, Nick Lee [’11] made it his mission to make something with it.” Composed of three shots of the sweet syrup (made out of almonds, sugar and rose water), two shots of espresso, whole milk and a garnish of chocolate syrup, the popular drink became an instant hit, rendering the need to order more supplies when the ingredients ran out.

When I walked into Goodrich late Monday night, I bumped into Genesis Herrera ’10, who was sipping on “The Genesis,” a caramel mocha dirty chai latté. According to my fellow barista, creativity with Coffee Bar beverages is not restricted solely to the ingredients – it can even include the method in which drinks are made. “I know that last year a lot of people were into making foam art,” she told me.

Barista Hannah Rosenthal ’10, who was off-duty, chipped in. “I like to see what shapes come up in my lattés and say that I made them intentionally,” she said. “I made ‘The Caterpillar’ that way.”

Perhaps one of the most compelling aspects of barista life, however, is the hectic nature of providing coffee and sustenance to the masses and the ensuing challenges that present themselves in the craziness of a weekday morning. “Last year, the morning shift would be crazy from 8 to 10 a.m.,” Herrera said. “The most bagels would light on fire, there would be a really long line and then [employees] would trip.” As someone who only works morning shifts, I can all too readily empathize: I have already witnessed the temporary death of the cash register, the spontaneous waterfall of boiling hot water from the espresso machine and a near toaster oven inferno.

“Sometimes when the bagel is too fat, it gets stuck in the back of the toaster, and there is an explosion of fires,” said Cat Vielma ’10. “You’ll see someone with a long spoon trying to pull it out. It’s up in flames for maybe 10 or 15 seconds. It comes out of the toaster and it comes out deeply charred . . . like a lava rock.”

Through the misadventures that can take place during any given day, the friendly and easygoing nature Coffee Bar management lends itself to a jovial environment where many barista friendships are forged.

Rebecca Alschuler ’11, Jax Richardson ’10 and Emanuel Yekutiel ’11 used to share a shift known by some as the Dream Team. “We got the name because some students were so amazed by our happy, dancing, beautiful amazingness at 7 a.m. and called us the Dream Team,” Alschuler said. “We would blast amazing mixes of music from 7 to 9 a.m. Because Emanuel and I are on NBC [Nothing but Cuties] we tended to break out into choreography behind the counter.”

Such is the life of the Goodrich Coffee barista. As I write this, I am about to head off to work in a few hours. I look forward to the sight of all the familiar faces, the sounds of the bagels toasting in the oven, the smell of the coffee beans grinding. The next time you’re in the mood for some coffee and a bagel, stop by – you may be in for an adventure.

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