Not all heroes wear capes, baristas wear aprons

Students are fueled by coffee.

Walk around the Chico State campus and notice coffee in the hands of several passing students, no matter what time of day. According to 2014 U.S. National Library of Medicine article, 70 percent of college students receive insufficient sleep. The bottom line is, students are tired and they need to find a way to stay awake. One tool that students use to get through their day is coffee. But who are these people that fuel our caffeine-addicted needs?

Baristas, of course.

Customers say, “I’ll have the usual,” and baristas remember that the customer wants a medium, single shot with four pumps of sugar-free peppermint, nonfat, extra hot, no foam, light whip, stirred, white mocha. Or for some, maybe it’s just a black coffee. Either way, they’re not judging anyone (yes, they are).

Kyle Dempsey
Kyle Dempsey prepares to go to work and serve as a barista. Photo credit: Kameryn Whipple

Kyle Dempsey, sophomore exercise physiology major, works part time as a barista at the Starbucks on the corner of E. 20th St. and Forrest Ave.

Bonding with the customers

Being cranky before adults get their caffeine in the morning is no joke. With that being said, baristas see students at their worst. They see students when they have been up for the last 18 hours writing a paper. They see students as they head off to class to take the midterm that they have barely studied for. They see students when they need to get away from their annoying roommates.

But somewhere in the mix of all of the blood, sweat and tears that walk into coffee shops each day, Dempsey has managed to find his favorite customer.

“There is a costumer named Steve,” he said. “He is middle-aged and he orders the same thing every day: a grande cappuccino non-fat bone dry. He just hands you his Starbucks gold card, and assumes I already know his order.”

While there are customers that may brighten a barista’s day, there are always going to be customers that make them raise an eyebrow.

“One lady has her order written down on a card that she hands to us because it is too hard to explain. This way, if someone is on register or bar who does not know her drink, it is all written down for them,” Dempsey said.

Bonding with the coworkers

Being in the service industry, especially when that service is coffee, it can create an environment where people get testy and particular about orders. Baristas need someone to laugh it off with and who better to do that with than their fellow baristas?

“Even after just a few weeks of working at Starbucks, my coworkers had become some of my greatest friends. At work, we are all so cohesive and respect each other as peers and equals,” Dempsey said.

However, Dempsey and his coworkers have not only built healthy relationships within the work place, but also make time to get together outside of work.

“One of the older partners kind of acts like our store mom, ‘Momma Jenn.’ She frequently has us over for family dinners and gatherings. They usually end around her fire pit with s’mores,” Dempsey said.

Bonding with the coffee

Coffee can come in all different strengths, sweetnesses and sizes, and among all of these options, baristas are there to help customers discover what their favorite drink is. But not all baristas start off as coffee experts.

But if you’re looking for a delicious drink with no caffeine Dempsey suggests, “a good ole glass of chocolate milk.”

Kameryn Whippple can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.