Hi. I'm Rocky and I'm a Barista. In addition to that addiction I've run into a problem. I haven't had a job in coffee since last September (2010, who knows how long posts stay up) and it's driving me nuts. After leaving Seattle's Best Coffee back then (Borders store) I took the first available holiday job that I could to pay the bills and then the first job that came after that in January- both in retail. As I'm settling back into a position where I can spend my free time looking for work in coffee I find myself drawn into a dilemma. Retail Coffee vs. Specialty Coffee? After a few weeks of sending out resumes and talking to a few people I understand that it might be a little harder for local independent cafes to take a risk hiring a barista thats spent most of his time at an SBC - especially in the city of Stumptown where baristas run wild in the streets and are easily caught tagged and wrangled behind counters to be put to good use.  I'm pretty sure I can get myself into a Starbucks or Peet's but I'm not sure that's what I want. I love coffee, I love cupping and timing out 15 seconds to a perfect shot, Hell I loveuur cleaning up the cafe when it's all done....so here's the big question, do i sate my addiction to making coffee by joining a company who's coffee i usually avoid and hold out for the right cafe, or do i give in and join the company?

 

 

If your a Starbucks employee and reading this let me know what you think.Is Starbucks 'the dark side'?

 

If your a hiring manager and reading this...yes. I really do love coffee so much that I stay at home on Friday nights watching 'Black Coffee' and other coffee documentaries, I love coffee so much that it's made me enjoy 4am morning alarms and cleaning up grinds, and more than anything, i love customers, grouchy, happy, angry, impatient, mellow customers.

 

-Rocky  F

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Good question! Ive struggled with a similar question "do I take the first coffee job I can get(after moving) or wait things out for a place i really want to work". I chose to take the first thing I could get that offered Insurance, that was Peets. I continued to look for work from day one, because its a lot easier(or just less stressful) to find a job when you have one. Working at Peets is a lot more like working in fast food than coffee, the bottom line is more important than quality. And very few people that worked there(or at least at my store) care about coffee.

 

    So I waited things out at Peets, and found a really awesome job recently (flying goat) with really awesome coffee.

 

Now I know there are some cafes that will discount you immediately for working at one of the big chains(I think that happened alot to me actually) but luckly  for me I had prior experience at non corporate cafes, plus a hell of a lot of passion, and eventually a really awesome cafe recognized that.

  So anyway thats the long way of me saying, take what you can get for now, and still continue to turn in resumes, and eventually you will find a place you love.

 

One last thing: 15 seconds to the perfect shot? that seems extremely fast, did you mean 25 seconds?(generally speaking 20 to 30 seconds is the norm)

Oh and ya starbucks is the dark side, both literally and figuratively.

It's great that you have such a good attitude toward even terrible customers, that patience will go a long way wherever you go.  I would say though that my friend has worked at Peets for a few years now, and it has ground even his strong spirits into the mud.  The forced presentation of trying to look like a specialty shop, the machine-like hierarchy of managers, assistant managers, "human relations" etc. The "customer is always always right" mentality that lets their customers believe that adding 10 modifications to their latte makes them sophisticated coffee drinkers...and for someone who really wants to hone their craft and treat it as an art and science, the lack of innovation and inability to change anything in the corporate formula will likely end up very frustrating.  But hey, they offer health care at least.  Just like patronizing a cafe, it depends on what you want out of it.  But you sound like you would thrive at a cafe that really cares about the product and is close to it.  I suggest working toward that kind of work place.  My friend now works at Blue Bottle and loves life and coffee again.
Good points chris, what I did was set a goal of finding a "real" coffee shop job within six months. Cause chris is right, it will start crushing your soul. I decided to sell a little of my soul for a guaranteed position as a shift supervisor with health/dental/vision and 38 hours a week. Is it something I could of done for a long time? No. But thats why I gave myself a deadline. Plus most of the people I work/worked(1 week left) with are honestly pretty cool. They dont give a shit about coffee, but working at Peets it behooves you not to.

Rocky,

The choice is yours my man.  While I realize that you are looking for a specific answer I am here to say that your choice is your choice and your path in lfe is what it is.  In my experience I would personally stay away from retail coffee and hold out for a specialty job.   thnk as a specialty barista I would be unhappy and dissatisfied in a retail coffee store, i.e. starbucks.  On the other hand, maybe it is the right coice for you at this time in your life, at least until you find a specialty bar to work at.

 

Peace!

If you're really in Stumptown (or Bridgetown, or Beertown, or whatever the name of the week is), there are coffee shops opening around here constantly. There are cafes hiring that don't have Starbucks or Peet's signs above the door. I just spent the last week doing trainings for 3 separate cafes opening in the near future.

 

Now, these aren't the latest iterations of Albina Press, Barista, or super-high end shops of that ilk. They're cafes that care about coffee and want to do a great job. If that fits into the currently accepted definition of "specialty coffee" then I'd do some more digging. When I was at Starbucks, I genuinely thought we had the best coffee in the world. I felt the same when I started working at Peet's. I got some sense knocked into me in the next couple jobs I had, but my time at Starbucks and Peet's has not even one time been a dark blot on my resume.

 

Inexpensive benefits and decent pay aren't things to look down on, and if you do what Dustin is doing/did, I think you may find that you get the best of both worlds - a living now, and a living that fulfills you later. 

thanks joshua, good post and uplifting (now that i do in fact work at Starbucks) it's a little rougher than i thought it would be but im going to make it work for the time that im there.

 

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