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Lead Barista Feature

You’ve just woken up and it won’t be long ‘til the front door begs your departure. Things to remember: phone, keys, wallet—you’re good to go—that is, until you’re three blocks out and you’ve left your morning coffee—all alone, steaming for nobody on your kitchen counter.

A moment later you’re at Lucky Goat, possibly wondering if leaving your coffee at home was the best decision you’ve made (or didn’t make, in this case). You’re greeted by a barista with decent social skills but expert coffee coordination. As they’re frothing your milk or filling your mug, they ask you how your morning is going. You confess to your misadventure, mutually simper, and meander back to your morning routine.

Day in and day out our baristas welcome us to the day. They mediate our morning mishaps, our pre-coffee personalities, and the rubbing of our eyes. Whether that’s through caffeine overload or a quick conversation that reminds us that we’re doing just fine—they’re there for us. We love our coffee cooks and we hope you do too. That’s why we sat them down for a chat.

Shortly after three o’clock in the afternoon, we gathered our lead baristas from each of our locations for a conversation. We gathered around a second-story couch bordered by books, pastries, and splendid windows to look out. The conversation began to the tune of “Friday I’m In Love” by Yo La Tengo, playing in the background.

“So, who are you and what do you do for Lucky Goat Coffee?”

“My names Hannah. I’m the lead barista at the Market District location as of last week.”

“Last week? Wow.”

“Well I started as a barista a few months ago, but yeah.”

“Jordan—I’m the lead at Capital Circle, and I’ve been at Lucky Goat for about two years now.”

“I’m Gabby, I’m the lead barista at the Midtown location and I’m coming up on my one month anniversary with Lucky Goat!”

Digging into their backgrounds I found various representations of coffee experience, ranging from the get-it-and-go café, to the stay-and-chat study-spot, to the coffee nerd’s paradise. Their backgrounds were diverse but all revolved around coffee somehow.

“So, in short, what’s being Lead Barista all about?”

Hannah: “Well, we assist the manager. We do inventory, help keep things on track, and ensure quality control of the coffee. Things like that.”

“Manager sidekick. Got it.”

Jordan: “We have a focus on consistency. We have to know the operations that are unique to our shop and how to ensure they all run smoothly and the same as they did yesterday.”

Gabby: “I think we act as mediators between the manager and the rest of the staff. Also, we get to pilot the coffee flights, which I’m really excited for! I’m such a pour over girl.”

“I’m a pour over girl too,” I assured her snidely.

She continued: “Pour overs are my favorite extraction method, so it’s exciting to me that I get to introduce that to people.”

“Interesting. So, you go out of your way to share your love for pour overs? What are other ways have you three personalized your job above and beyond what’s required?

Hannah: “I think my main focus is interpersonal relationships and making sure the environments positive. When you work at such a busy café you need to find ways to keep the vibe up. If anyone ever needs something, I want them to know they can talk to me about it. That’s what I’m passionate about.”

“So you’re the shop therapist?”

“Basically,” she chuckled.

Jordan: “The dynamic at Capital Circle is awesome and I really appreciate that. I love the dynamic of our store, and to keep it that way we have to communicate fairly often. One of my focuses is keeping that communication open.”

We nodded our heads.

“I also think back to how excited people were when they were first training me,” she continued.

“Care to elaborate?”

“Well, I really appreciate how enthusiastically I was trained. So now I love watching newer employees learn the exciting parts of coffee.”

“So, you like being a teacher. What are some of your favorite moments?”

Jordan: “Like when new baristas smell coffee beans with crazy fruit notes for the first time, when they taste of certain types espresso, and latte art… we all get really excited about latte art. The first time you have a little kid smile at the heart you put in their hot chocolate is a really special experience. So, getting to watch people’s growth and excitement is one of my favorite parts.”

Gabby: “That’s pretty close to what I try and do. So, when I’m not at Lucky Goat I’m the market manager of a farmer’s market in town.”

“Oooh,” we all uttered in unison.

“Since I have an agricultural background, I get really excited talking about coffee farmers, growing conditions, altitudes, and things like that. I’m really proud of the single origins we serve and the ethics surrounding them. The fruit-to-cup pipeline is something I’m really passionate about, so I try my best to encourage that in my café.”

“So being a lead barista gives you a platform to share your passion even though that’s beyond your job description. That’s really cool.”

Gabby: “Yeah, I’m usually up until three o’clock watching videos about coffee. Most coffee drinkers might not be interested in knowing that their coffee was grown at 1800 meters, but when you tell them that the coffee they just purchased is going to help fund a public school in Honduras—that’s a moment of connection that really resonates with people. It can broaden someone’s coffee horizon.”

“So, therapists and teachers, huh?” we chuckled.

“A lot of this is a whole new level to me,” Hannah added.

“At the last place that I worked we didn’t have single origins and we didn’t talk about growing climates—we had two roasts. Having worked at Lucky Goat for a little bit now, I’m learning so much and I’m so excited to learn more.”

Gabby: “That’s what I really love about this job. I keep getting excited for things and I’m surrounded with other people who are too. That isn’t something that happens in every job.”

Jordan: “At my location we have the warehouse connected our café. That’s something I really love. Getting to see what other people are doing and learning about the different process involved is really special to me. Sometimes I’ll just walk up and ask Joe a question and he’s happy to answer.”

Gabby: “I don’t think there’s an endgame with this job. You can always do something better, and witnessing that journey is interesting. Going home and researching coffee isn’t a burden to me, it’s entertaining. I can’t say that about other jobs.”

“What do you think the difference is between us and ‘other jobs’?”

“At Lucky Goat, I work with highly competent people who are extremely motivated to do what we’re doing. I feel a lot of clarity because of that.”

Hannah: “For me what make this job different is the people. I genuinely love all of the people I work with and it’s the first job I’ve had that wasn’t surrounded with drama.”

“Why do you think that is?”

“I don’t know… everyone gets excited for coffee. Some customers come in and just want to talk to us and it’s our job to make their day! And we know we will because coffee is great.”

We all nodded with check-marked smiles.

We paused quietly for a moment. We went on to talk about the more challenging parts of the job and steps they each took to overcome those. We talked about the relationships between them and their managers, their interests outside of the café, and even some of the things they hope to do after this job. Eventually the conversation died down, each of us gathering our things, making for the door and out into the usual five o’clock sun-shower Florida never seems to forget.

I learned a lot from these three. I learned that coffee is equalizing and that the café is a refuge. It’s a place where everyone can come and calmly be themselves despite the day before. My conversation with them went from a casual taking-of-a-pulse, to a reminder that coffee shops are a place for hot chocolate hearts, day-makers, and the conversations in between.

So, next time you forget your coffee at home, don’t worry, you’re in good hands.

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