The beings behind the beans: Cassia

For the full soundtrack of the cover song at the beginning of this video, visit Sweet Rosebud on Soundcloud.

Being a barista is “like the definition of it’s complicated on Facebook, because sometimes it was the best job in the whole world and sometimes I wanted to burn the entire place down,” says Cassia, a former barista at the Well Coffeehouse and Starbucks. We share a laugh as we sit and talk at J&J’s Market and Cafe, Cassia with a Dirty Chai, and I with a brewed coffee accompanied by a slice of chocolate hazelnut biscotti.

16343597_10154894017527889_1130166613_nWhen it comes to coffee, for Cassia, the first word that comes to mind to describe it is “community,” and it’s also one of the things she enjoyed most about being a barista. “I’m still best friends with people I worked with three years ago,” says Cassia. Not only did she develop friendships with her co-workers but also regular customers who would frequent the coffeeshop during her shifts. When asked to describe her relationship with coffee, Cassia says, “I don’t need coffee for the caffeine… (but because) “I’m often going to coffeeshops where I’m with people or studying, and I’m around people that I like, I tend to associate it with all the really good things that happen in my life.”

16295984_10154894018527889_287178173_nCassia admits that her background in the humanities, and current study as a Divinity student is consistent with some of the stereotypes people have about baristas – “that barista’s are liberal arts majors…working a part time to get me through school.” “People (would) ask me pretty frequently, what do you really want to do?” While Cassia says that she has aspirations aside from coffee, she passionately shared with me that baristas are beings that come from diverse backgrounds, not all are liberal arts majors, not all are students, and many have diverse aspirations, some of which may involve barista-ing as a vocation and not just a temporary job. “There are professional baristas” says Cassia, there’s “a big coffee community” out there, and “I know a lot of people who want to be roasters, who want to be baristas as their full time job forever.”

img_0351Baristas like Cassia are beings just like us with diverse backgrounds and lived experiences. While they work at the coffeeshops we visit, they also visit some of the same coffeeshops we visit as well. Cassia says that when she was a barista at Starbucks, she frequented The Well Coffee house – “I was there so much, and they knew I was a barista that they (later) offered me a job…it’s kind of one of those things that if you hang out long enough they’ll pay you to be there!” When she was working at the Well, she frequented Crema Coffeeshop, both of which she recommended and endorsed without hesitation. Having visited both, I second her motion.

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