During a routine conversation I had with my friend Luke Lockhart (one of the Founders of an awesome startup – Pophire) over which coffee shops made really good espresso, we touched upon the topic of tipping our baristas.
We made the comparison to their late night counterparts – bartenders in bars and clubs, concluding they aren’t appreciated enough. They work just as hard during morning rushes, but are not monetarily compensated for making your drink really good.
According to Wikipedia, “The word barista is of Italian origin, and in Italian, a barista is a male or female “bartender”, who typically works behind a counter, serving both hot drinks (such as espresso), and cold alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, not a coffee-maker specifically.”
Compare baristas to a bartender who makes a standard rail drink that takes less than 10 seconds to make, and they make what around 50 cents to a dollar on a drink.
What accounts for this disparity in the compensation and treatment of our hardworking and friendly neighbourhood barista? What gives?
I mean, I’m talking about good baristas. The baristas who care what their clientele thinks of their caffeinated creations, who appreciate the art and science of pulling a beautiful shot of espresso, all the while carefully handcrafting your drink. These are the baristas who toss out a drink they made for you if you don’t like it for any reason and make you another one to their exacting and high standards.
Talking to a barista whose name I will leave out, he remarked on the barista being “the best shitty job you can have”, the stinginess of certain regulars. Because in an independent coffee shop, they don’t have the automated processes of a large chain like Starbucks or Tim Hortons, they control almost every aspect of hand crafting your drink.
I believe it has to do with “macro” forces like Tim Hortons and Starbucks commoditizing the experience, reinforcing social mores and norms where tipping isn’t condoned or really encouraged. Most people just aren’t used to it and downright refuse to, which is understandable and will eventually change over time.
But hear me out, crafting a cappuccino and putting a decent effort in, is a service. It’s that extra attention and care that I’m paying for when tipping. They work pretty damn hard so you can be on your merry caffeinated way to work or wherever you’re going after your coffee stop-over.
Rule of thumb is whatever you have left over if you’re paying in change. Say your drink is $2.50, and you leave a 50 cent tip, baristas (the good ones anyway) will remember you and will put that extra attention and care in to making you an awesome drink, every single time.
What do you think of tipping your barista? Am I a little over-zealous for our under-appreciated barista? 🙂