Editor’s note: One of the nicest and most unexpected things that happened to me during the SCAA show in Boston was when I met Allyssa Snow Taves, who is the wife of barista competitor and long-time coffee geek Josh Taves. Allyssa is bright and enthusiastic, and she was thrilled to be in Boston supporting Josh in competition. When Josh introduced me to her, he started to say, “You know, Sarah from Barista Magazine…” and Allyssa said, “Oh I KNOW.” Then she turned to me and said, “We have your magazines displayed on the coffee table in our living room.” I got a kick out of that, but I also felt for Allyssa — she’s not a coffee professional, but she shares her life with a major coffee geek. We chatted about it for a while before she suggested writing a piece for the blog about what it’s like exactly to live with a confirmed coffee nut. I loved the idea, and when she sent me the story, I loved it, too. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
By Allyssa Snow Taves
I thought I understood. Then I moved in with him. And after a while, I realized that he’s a barista all the time, not just when he’s behind the bar. This mindset follows him home, and, though he’s far from the cafe, a part of him is still there. If you’re planning to move in with a barista, you need to be equipped with an understanding of their behaviors. I’ve cataloged a few of the symptoms to familiarize you with what you’re getting yourself into.
When you move in with a barista, your surroundings start to change. The changes will be subtle, at first, but, sooner or later, you will realize that your home is filled with a hundred little “freebies.” Posters from this cafe, stickers from that cafe, buttons, t-shirts, and magazines, oh my. You should know that, to your barista, the kitchen counter is not a place for a flower vase or a cookie jar; it’s more of a trophy case. It will be filled with all the latest brewing methods, those grinders he won at the USBC, and a top of the line water kettle. Don’t be surprised to find two or three of the same brewing method in your kitchen. To the barista, they are keepsakes. So make space for all these mementos, even if your barista moves in with enough mugs to stock a your very own cafe.
Speaking of your own cafe, be aware that your barista is always planning to open his own cafe someday. This means that every time you go out with your barista, he is analyzing his experience, taking mental notes on what he likes, and adding those ideas up in his mind, where a cafe is being built. You can’t just go on a date anymore; everywhere your barista goes is a building block in his future cafe. This includes traveling. Visiting new cities is not about the sightseeing to a barista; it’s a coffee crawl. You will be escorted to the best cafes, no matter how out of the way they may be, and you will enjoy some of the best coffee that (Insert city’s name here) has to offer. Don’t be surprised if your barista fills half of his suitcase with his Aeropress and his portable grinder. Just be thankful that you will always have good coffee, no matter how far you may be from your usual cafes.
More than likely, you will happily adjust to most of the barista’s living habits. You will be grateful to find your dishes are meticulously cleaned, your glassware perfectly organized, and a steady stream of coffee samples never runs out. There’s just one season of the year to be warned about, and that is barista competition season. Competition season is like March Madness to your barista. He has watched every presentation in every region for the last four or five years, and somehow, he remembers each one. He knows the tamping methods of baristas across the country. He knows their strengths, their weaknesses, what companies they’ve worked for, and how many years they’ve been competing. I’m warning you now, don’t plan to spend a lot of time together in this season; your barista’s mind is elsewhere.
So if you are prepared with an understanding of this lifestyle, you will do well living with your barista. Just don’t expect it him to grow out of it, and don’t expect him to change. Your barista is a barista for good.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Allyssa Snow Taves studies international development and writing. She is happily married to the handsomest barista around.