All photos by Dan Gentile
Science claims the best time of day to drink coffee is 10:30am, but what's the worst time of day? Whenever your local coffee shop is staffed by the Condescending Coffee Snob.
But for every Condescender, there's a handful of Small Talk Experts, Tip Flirts, and Lifers that make going to a coffee shop a beloved pastime for everyone from students who nurse one cup for five hours to lip-smacking espresso lovers. Keep reading to see the complete canon of coffee baristas, and if we missed any, be sure to leave us a tip in the comments section. Just like at a coffee shop, you'll be rewarded with nods of appreciation and witty, semi-sexual banter.
Arrived at 6am to unlock the doors. Probably still has bits of sleep in their eyes and alcohol on their breath. Wide awake for 30 minutes at a time, followed by severe espresso crashes. Deserving of some slack.
The latte artist
Majored in art history. Double minored in conversations about philosophy and student debt. Takes great pride in his arsenal of four latte designs that all look identical. Dies a little each time a customer puts a lid on their drink without admiring his work.
Subscribes to the philosophy of cleanliness is godliness. Feels uncomfortable when he doesn't have a towel in his back pocket. Always smells like
unrealized dreams coffee. Has thrown out literally thousands of unread alt-weeklies. Somehow makes more money than you. Sigh.
The girl next door
An asset to any coffee shop. Attractive even in her work shirt, genuinely friendly, and an expert at gracefully dodging sexual advances. Exponentially increases the tip-out of anyone working with her.
The tip flirt
Close cousin to the Girl Next Door. Always happy to see you. Laughs at things you say that you didn't realize were jokes, mostly because they weren't. Holds eye contact much longer than you can handle, until suddenly you're tipping two bucks when all you bought was a cookie, and Jesus Christ, you need to leave now, because you just told her you liked her "mouth lips".
The guy who's genuinely interested in how your day is going
Friendliness that's able to turn a bad day into a slightly less awful day. Sometimes you wonder if he's friendly because you met him at a party and have forgotten his name. Maybe his name is Rick?
The guy who scowls at you for not tipping
Expert at building tension the moment you sign the credit card receipt. Has a detailed gradient of different thank yous depending on how much you tip. Feels he should earn more money than most entry-level scientists. Does NOT care how your day is going. Makes you miss Rick.
The tattoo guy
Has a mix of very detailed tattoos and super sloppy joke tats from "the early years". Several are themed around the service industry. The ones on his neck and hands inspire awkward questions at job interviews. Once played in a third wave ska band that opened for Reel Big Fish in 2002. Don't ask him about it.
The condescending coffee snob
Clenches fists under the counter in pure rage whenever a mocha is ordered. Will blatantly admonish patrons for asking for foamy cappuccinos. Don't even get him started on decaf. Has trouble keeping roommates. Picks fights in the coffee subreddit. Has no idea that everyone hates him.
The guy who's putting the moves on that nice girl who studies there all the time
She's trying to get through a rough semester of bio-chem by mainlining chai between bites of wilted Spring Mix, and she doesn't have time to date. He desperately tries to figure out a date idea that fits into her busy schedule, but she's at the coffee shop more than he is. Still might ask her to go for a coffee.
The small talk expert
Has an uncanny ability to riff on just about anything you could possibly say to him. Is likely an English major who hasn't written anything in awhile. Will eventually bring up Lucky Peach.
The dude who hangs out at the shop after his shift
Believes that because the coffee shop has plentiful WiFi and free coffee, the only reason to go home is to shower. And maybe get new pants.
Did you know that coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world? And that these beans were fairly traded with an Ethiopian family who sometimes calls the owner of the store just to ask how his kids are doing? And that your espresso has hints of hazelnut, chocolate, and stone fruit? And that iced coffee is actually an iced toddy unless it's Japanese iced coffee?
Either the happiest or the unhappiest person in the shop. Friendly when working the register. Hopelessly inept at making espresso drinks.
The barista who doesn't care at all about coffee quality
Unconcerned that the drip coffee has been warming for six hours. Pronounces espresso with an X. The difference between their lattes and cappuccinos is mostly accidental. Has a tense relationship with Rick.
The ultra coffee nerd
Has competed in barista competitions. Uses an AeroPress at home. Is experienced enough to know when someone just wants a cup of coffee and not the weather report from the country in which it was grown. Occasionally measures the weight of espresso shots for precision. Is considering opening up a shop of their own. Wants to know how "Kickstarter works".
The punk rocker
Wears at least one article of ripped clothing. Plays music that is very difficult to study to. Has piercings in awkward places. Strangely is on a first name basis with every straight-laced regular.
The guy more interested in picking music than making your coffee
Just downloaded Brian Eno's 2003 ambient album Bell Studies for the Clock of the Long Now and is making the coffee shop sound like a historic Roman church whose hunchback has finally lost it. Encouraged by the one guy who always tips him a dollar on the way out for the "good tunes", ignores the five people who leave based on his choices.
The guy who's just there to promote his band and/or DJ set
There is a flyer somewhere within eyeshot that he can point to. Often leaves for weeks at a time on tour. Has probably dated a customer. Closely related to the guy who's more interested in picking out music than making coffee.
The girl who really needs to be studying right now
Short on small talk, high on stress. Is muttering historical facts under her breath. Makes your coffee really, really fast.
Health Department be damned, this guy refuses to shave his face-forest regardless of the fact that it's essentially a lint-trap for coffee grounds.
The guy who dresses in all vintage clothing from before WWII
Thrift shops on his day off. Likes to talk about the classic novel he's reading. He doesn't really need those suspenders to hold up his pants.
Ohhhh. Right. That's
Special thanks to the baristas of Thunderbird Coffee in Austin, TX.
Dan Gentile is a staff writer on Thrillist's national food/drink team who recently purchased a very nice toaster oven and is excited about exploring the world of crispy reheated food. He also enjoys hating mustard. Follow him to pots of gold/Twitter at @Dannosphere.