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Archive for July 8th, 2008

Questioning the Barista

July 08th, 2008 | Category: Interviews

I know they’re evil and all, but I have to admit that I’m big on Starbucks. My current poison is steamed soy milk with dark chocolate. I go to the same Starbucks a few times a week, Sara and I used to go on weekends. There’s a big shady tree out front, it’s surprisingly tranquil for being near a busy road. It’s one of those twenty-four hour Starbucks, last year we were there with a bunch of other hardcores at 2 AM after Midnight Mass. There’s also one barista in particular who practically lives there…

Shaun Leveroni, 25. He’s been an alchemist of caffeine since moving to Tampa from San Diego. Five years ago, before joining the ranks of his fellow baristas, Shaun found himself slamming down around $350 a month on various coffees. Aside from flexible hours, the job offered plenty of free lattes. It’s another example of a fix for a fix. Shaun’s actually not so into coffee today, he says, “I used to be a coffee addict ($350/mo in CA). Now, I rarely drink it. Not that I don’t like it, I just don’t crave it. I love tea.”

Shaun’s actually surprisingly serious about the job, he knows people often compare Starbucks to crack, but he notes, “There is good and bad in everything, Starbucks helps a lot in communities and other countries. Sometimes these things come at a cost. They aren’t a crack dealer. People are smart enough to know what they are putting in their bodies. They offer decaf.” I brought up the subject jokingly, but apparently it comes up a lot.

It’s also always amusing to hear the hyper-elaborate drinks people order, so I ask Shaun if people are so particular for a reason or if it’s just an affectation to sound hip, to which he says, “People do elaborate, customized drinks for health reasons. But I have accidentally messed up drinks and only realized it 20 minutes later… they never returned the drink. So, people do order drinks to sound cool, too.” I ask if the pretension ever drives him crazy, but such is not the case for our coffee hero, “Modifications don’t bother me, I question whether they make sense (like 1.5 tsp. Splenda), but I make what they want regardless.” Personally, I’d probably deck people left and right, but that is why Shaun’s the barista and I just write about it.

It’s not easy work, but Shaun definitely digs it, he’s ready for anything. One time, “someone ordered 25 shots of espresso at once,” but Shaun was ready. If Batman walks in tomorrow, he’ll know exactly what to serve the Dark Knight. “Straight black offee, to the point, low maintenance, quick and easy,” Shaun tells me. I think he’s totally right.

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