Important or Self-Important: The Role and Influence of a Barista

By Tracy Ging with significant contribution by James Hoffmann

After the World Barista Championship (WBC) this year in London, I got to be a fly on the wall and listen in on a conversation between Oliver Strand, a columnist for The New York Times, and the six WBC finalists. It was a casual yet deeply interesting chat because the baristas were right about so many things. For one, they absolutely recognized the importance of education, citing the growing number of coffee drinkers who want to know details of where coffee comes from, how it’s grown, and about the science and nuance of flavor. The baristas were also very realistic about the many consumers who don’t care at all and just want hot liquid served fast. Their insights were profound and practical, each demonstrating that they not only possess skill and knowledge, but the ability to orchestrate an experience—meeting each customer at their particular level of awareness and gently leading them toward the broader possibilities. If we just had 50,000 more people like these six, specialty coffee would undoubtedly be on a whole new trajectory.

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