Okay, so I'm at Stumptown in Portland right now and I order an espresso, latte, and scone. Am I a worse person for the fact that I, one, see a man behind the bar with about a day's worth of growth and think "he must be new" and, two, hope that the person pulling my shots has a proper "barista" level beard? There was,
however, a person working behind the bar with no facial hair whose gender was in question (turned out it was a girl) so I automatically felt that he or she was more qualified to make coffee than the guy without a beard. Is that bad? I hope not because I'm pretty sure that, every time I go into a new coffee shop, I judge whether or not to get an espresso based on my barista having ears with two or more piercings or
at least one piercing gauged 12 or larger. It doesn't stop there. If I walk into a shop that doesn't have eclectic artwork or old/retro furniture but does have a very clean and sterile atmosphere, I feel like bolting for the door.
I don't know if this judgement comes from the specialty coffee industry in the United States having grown up with the grunge movement or from the twenty-somethings that seem to populate most barista positions. All I know is that the oddity of a barista or shop is directly related to their perceived quality. I also know that I am probably vastly limiting myself in my perception of a quality coffee shop. So I promise from here on out to not blow off a coffee place, whether it be a shop or drive-through, based on the Hollister shirt that the barista is wearing. I'll blow them off for having bad coffee. I will say, though, that when I noticed that Stumptown was playing their music on a vinyl record player I also noticed a significant improvement in their espresso.