Greetings fellow coffee enthusiats,

Had never given a proper hello and introduction to the forum. I'm writing this out of a bit of frustation and was looking for some input. Could be advice, criticism, or just a keep your bald head up.

So if you are bored or have time to kill, here is my background. Will include the cliff note version down below if you like to skip *I won't be offended*.

Having some time off from my Pipe Fitter's Union, I decided to get out of Dirty Jersey and drive cross country for about two months. Was an amazing journey filled with many memorable and life changing moments. After seeing those drive-thru huts that are prominent on the West Coast, I thought it would be great to open one back east. They were such a welcome site to see open so early as I was still on East Coast time. I thought it was a great move as I had always spent numerous hours in cafes *mostly Starbucks* and enjoyed my coffee & tea. *I must add* There is an extreme lack of Specialty Coffee with a focus on quality within NJ *as I now know*.

Out of realization of how unlivable I found NJ to be after my trip, I moved out to SW Pennsylvania where I have some family. I flew down for the 2010 SCAA Expo in Austin, TX. This is where it happened, where everything changed. This is where I had my first great cup of coffee. During and after those three days, I realized how much work I had ahead of me. Not work for opening a location, but the work of learning how to prepare proper coffee and espresso. While at the Expo I took a number of lectures when I really should have been taking their Barista and Extraction Training.

Counter Culture Coffee had made a great impression with their satellite cafe on the second level. From their website I learned they offered training and in June I headed to NYC for the following:

Comparative Cupping
Beginner Espresso Lab
Milk Chemistry Lab
Coffee Professional Series

I would write on about how amazing the two-day Pro Series was, but I wouldn't do it justice with my limited writing skills. My view of what quality is and what it means to be quality-focused has really been opened and defined from spending that time with Counter Culture.

So here I am with a very solid knowledge base. Which has also been greatly improved on from sites such as this one, home-barista, coffeegeeks, jimseven, tampertantrum, etc. I moved up to Pittsburgh to find work in a "proper" cafe. There are about eight cafes here in the Burgh that would be the type of environment I would like to work and learn in. Three of the eight were actively hiring in the past month, four weren't, and one had just hired someone the previous week I had approached them. The three had posts on craigslist and I landed interviews with all three.  I feel that interview very well and it was easy as it is regarding something I'm passionate about. I also have ten years of food and beverage expierence from server, barback, bartender, and assitant FOH manager. In addition, I have also worked in IT and construction. Just always had a food/beverage job on the side or as main income, especially with my Union being very sporadic.

Um, where was I? Sorry had went to brew myself a cup of CC's microlot from Finca El Puente with my just arrived Espro Press. I really enjoy the cup that this Espro Press makes, definitely glad I made the purchase.

So I interviewed for the three locations and didn't land any of them. The one location was also hiring for two full-time and one part-time. That was a real bummer to not land any of those five open spots. I feel now that being open with wanting to start my own business in the future was a big factor for not landing any of those spots. I totally spun it with the fact they were going to get a person who was quality focused and passionate about coffee for the next year or so. Someone who didn't just view this as another job, but as an opportunity. Also I feel I was a bit too "main-stream" for the one manager's liking.

So here I am without any coffee-quality centric cafes to work in. I am awaiting responses from two other locations. These two locations *both with great people* are not the type of location where I can have people to learn from *regarding coffee*. Yes I can learn how to make a 20oz Vanilla Soy Latte and a Mocha Froza-something, but that is not the direction I want to head. Neither of these two are a Starbucks or somewhere that has fully-auto machines, I'd rather bartend.  There is no guarantee that I'll even get a job at either of these locations. I did keep quiet about my goal of opening my own business in the future. I don't like the fact that I couldn't be totally open and upfront with them, but I learned that I had to tone it down.

So here am I, where I didn't think I would be especially after there being open opportunities. I have my unemployment for a couple more months and could always bartend, so I'm not worried about my money flow turning negative. I'm really lucky to be in the position I'm in, to be able to pursue a career in coffee in the way I want to. I'm really getting stressed out about not finding work in a *third wave, proper, high end, specialty, whatever you want to call it* cafe. Shoot, I'm starting to get worried that one of these two remaining places will hire someone with Starbucks experience over me.

So yeah, that is my hello and my extremely longer venting about my current situation. I apologize for poor grammar and spelling mistakes *no spell check on this new tablet*. I know I have become too self reliant on spell check and auto-correct. Luckily I don't have to type out your drink when it's ready, just have to call it out.  Also the drive-thru concept has really fizzled out.  Not sure where exactly I'm headed anymore, but lies within coffee. 

So again.....Hello and Thanks,


Cliff notes: Some dude crying that he can't get a job in a specialty cafe after doing everything possible he could think of up till now.

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I'm sorry that the search is not going well.

I have no idea what went on during the interviews, but judging from this post I can imagine you came on a little strong. Many independent stores want to hire people who they can train to make the drinks THEIR way. A hunger for knowledge is good to have, but is it possible you presented yourself in a way that looked like you already had your own ideas that would be difficult to retrain? Very few places want to hire someone who thinks they know better than them.

I'm not saying you are like that, just a possibility you appeared that way. Of course, in todays job market the competition for any job can be fierce. Maybe there were many qualified candidates?

Best of luck in your search. Don't give up!
I had thought about that ahead of time.  I stated the fact that I hadn't had extensive hands on time would help me with picking up on their shop's technique.  I feel that statement is very true, not just a bs line to try to sell them on me.  Only one of the shops had all the barista on the same page as far as dosage, tamp, and other techniques.  There are two other  shops where they emphasize everyone to be on the same page with techniques but they aren't hiring.  Yeah I know it's a very competive market right now, that goes for every market.  Especially right now here in Pittsburg, a lot of grad students are job hunting.  Students are coming from all over the place for the programs here.  Thanks for the encouragment.

Keep knocking on doors, even if it is not the exact type of place you want to be at long term.  If you have the equipment in front of you, you can learn plenty.


In my experience, a lot of managers do not want to be intimidated by their knowledge-they want to feel that they know the most about coffee in the whole place.  This is unfortunate, because I feel that I learn from my baristas every day-every minute!  I am wondering if (as suggested above) they felt intimidated or that their credibility would waver amongst their team.  Hopefully someone out there can see a knowledeable person as an asset, rather than a challenge to their abilities-assuming you are not trying to change the existing policies and procedures of the place.  Good luck!

Thanks TJ.  I'm starting to consider places that just bump out drinks without a care in the world about how they taste.  At least I will do my best to make the drinks properly.  Will keep knocking on doors until someone opens.  I have made acquaintances with most of the shop owners and Barista for the higher end location. 


Being open about my intentions has closed some doors but has allowed some others to open.  I am supposed to meet two partners who own an unsuccessful pizza location downtown, with another barista.  They want to turn their current location in a coffee business. 

Giggity giggity!!!  I got a job today.  Small cafe located within a large corporate law building.  Will be serving the 800 or so employees of that building.  New owners are taking over the cafe and I will get to steer where the coffee quality is heading.  Saturday have training from our local roaster and get to check out the site.  Feel the new owners are very open to my insight and desire to strive for the best quality coffee we can make.  They are from a food catering background with very minimal coffee experience and knowledge. 

Well I don't now how helpful my response is since I see you've found a job! So congrats on that! And also, it sounds like the ideal situation. I was going to say that even if you don't land a job at what we'd consider a "quality" shop there's still a lot that can be learned, even at a "regular" coffee shop. For instance, here in Gothenburg, I worked for a brief spell at the city's best specialty coffee shop but I have to say that spending the last year at a totally different café that is not at all a specialty coffee shop has really been a great learning experience.  On the one hand, if you can make a great cup of coffee with a "lesser" product then imagine what you can do once you DO get your hands on a superior product. 


Mahogny Coffee (where I'm currently employed) is one of many Italian-style cafés that is quite popular in Gothenburg. We don't necessarily use the type of coffee I'd prefer personally but working here has given me great insight into the way that Gothenburgers like their coffee. Also, with my overall plan being to open my own "third wave" coffee shop, I've gotten a great sense for whether or not it would be worth the effort to do so. Finally, and this doesn't apply so much to your situation, I've gotten first hand chance to learn and practice a new language. So, how's your Pittsburghese coming along?


Good luck with the new gig!

I don't think I can change how I "tawk" about "caw-fee" after being born and living in NJ for the past 30 years.  I will also not be using the term "Yinz" anytime soon nor ever!



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