I've worked in the same coffee shop for two years, and wondered when that mysterious barista-in-disguise would come to my shop. They would quietly critique my work while I stand on the other side of the bar shaking from a mixture of fear, adrenaline, expectation, lack of nutrition, and excess of caffeine.
The first barista to invade my turf and critique me, was more of a pompous ass who, with his nose wrinkled snidely asked, "would you pour some hot water in that cup to temper it first so it doesn't SHOCK the espresso?" You mean this one that has been steaming on top of my espresso machine? Thanks, jerk, you have successfully made me feel worthless, and I have, thus, learned nothing (but to dread ever meeting another barista ever again).
Today's experience was much more pleasant, but nerve-racking, nonetheless. You're first clue that an enthusiast has walked into your shop, is when they ask you about your espresso, normal people just drink it and leave. I am a woman of few words, so when this question came up I was a little stunned, but I stammered incoherently about "erm... Italy... arabica... smooth...." After a few more awkward exchanges my skills were put to the test, and even more awkwardly, I shakily put on my cappuccino performance. A few thoughtful sips... Katy o.d.-ing on caffeine... "hmmm, yes, I think you have the best cappuccino in town..." What! You mean it doesn't suck! Probably the biggest compliment of my career (even though Stillwater doesn't offer much in the form of competition as far as skill and quality goes). I am still riding high on the fact that even though the daily sales in any other shop in town would kick the ass of my pitiful weekly, my cappuccino is still the best.
And if my mysterious, nameless critic is out there, I wish you could have stuck around and talked more. In my nervousness, I might not have seemed that friendly, but I can be a hoot, I promise! Drop me a line, if you read this, and I'll buy you coffee.