June 05, 2020 5 min read

What is Coffee Culture?

I work with an amazing team of Barista's and basically, we support each other inside and outside of the cafĂ© and the Roastery. When I had a family member pass away, my co-workers covered my shifts.  When one of our co-worker’s apartment burned down, we stepped up and raised money to make sure he was able to resettle and purchase a new guitar. Renee Brown, our leader, has written numerous letters of recommendation for Baristas to help them advance in their careers. Renee will do this, knowing that it means letting wonderful employees move on to achieve their ultimate ambitions.

However, an amazing team of coffee Barista's does not just happen. When interviewing and hiring new baristas to work in the Weaver’s Coffee & Tea Flagship located at 2301 Market Street in San Francisco, I always end the interview asking two questions: “What does community mean to you? What does culture mean to you?”

According to Oxford Languages, one definition of community is “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” They define culture as “the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.”

What Is It Like to Be a Barista and Serve the Community?

I have worked in San Francisco at the Weaver’s Coffee & Tea Flagship for nearly five years. Right now most of the area is completely boarded up due to the protestors and homeless encampments.  We are open, with shortened hours, and serving the community.  

I started to think about what this means, what does it mean to serve the community? Serving the community is not just about learning the regular customers typical coffee drink or about what time they will arrive for their espresso drink.

How to Be a Barista and serve the community in a few easy steps:

  1. Learning customer names, the names of their friends and family.
  2. Watching a woman go from being pregnant, to seeing her baby in the stroller, and then walking and talking.
  3. Offering a shoulder to cry on when a customer informs you of their loss of their mother, husband, or sibling.
  4. Understanding that things happen in busy coffee shops and things break, like the A/C on a hot day, or the grab-n-go when it has just been filled with takeout food, and that things will continue to go awry and ultimately the key is not to get angry or upset.
  5. Hearing customers talk about their new job or leaving a job that was weighing them down.
  6. Donating money from the sale of three of our coffees to local nonprofits and community events in the area, as well as setting up popups and donating coffee for local community events here in the Bay Area and down in Los Angeles.
  7. Customers inviting me to dinner parties, birthdays, and other celebrations.
  8. Customers checking in and asking how we are doing. Giving us a hug, giving us moral support and resources.

What is our Coffee Culture?

Specialty coffee is an incredibly interesting industry, filled with every type of person and it is a lot smaller than people think because we all know each other, and understand what each coffee company offers to customers. There are small local roasters who have a passion for coffee and supply their customers with their coffees. There are larger coffee shop chains who roast their coffee for their shops, grocery and wholesale accounts, however, most of them do not touch the coffee, the process is completely automated, which is reflected in the cup. There are the really big guys, the guys who do IPOs and bring in 2.8 billion dollars in a week, and that is a lot of money and shows the power and wealth in coffee.  So, I guess it comes back to, what is our coffee culture?

I know what differentiates us from other coffee companies is our leader, plus amazingly delicious coffee and tea and an unique coffee culture.  Corporate culture starts at the top, and we have a clear and defined corporate culture. “Quality, Consistency and Kindness”, this is our coffee culture, and Renee will state this over and over again to the staff. There are a few other classic one-liners to simplify her expectations of us, ‘Come to work, do your job, go home, no drama”, or, one of my corporate favorites, “We got this.” Explaining our company and its two key features which are easy to remember, Best Coffee,serving coffee that is good for you and good for the environment and Social Entrepreneurs,donating a percentage of sales to three local community organizations since 2013. 

In San Francisco, I have watched friends work as Baristas and they bounce from one coffee company to another coffee company. However, at Weaver’s Coffee & Tea, our baristas stay with us for many, many years, usually three plus years and some Baristas have been with us ten years, so, like our customers they are very loyal.

Recently, “coffee culture” seems to have turned into barista competitions, what cafe has the best interior design, or the latest cutting-edge technology. However, coffee culture should be defined by how the community responds to you, and what the coffee company offers back to the community it serves.

Seeing people come together, especially now, since we have had to become takeout only, when we cannot have seating or allow people to hang out inside our coffee shop. Hearing customers share with me why they are buying eight pounds of coffee, and which family members or friends will receive the coffee as a gift as they drop coffee off on their way home. Listening to one of my favorite customers expound upon the ease of using our website and sending three pounds of coffee to every one of her siblings to help support our business, truly warms my heart. How customers have been interacting with me while I am in the coffee shop, or if I see them in the neighborhood, and how they thank me for being a part of the community, and remaining open in these challenging times, is what defines the meaning of coffee culture for me. Please come visit one of our coffee shops or spend some time perusing our website: weaverscoffee.com and support us and our vision.  We do have a super cool company with an amazing coffee culture, and I am very thankful to be a part of such a wonderful team.

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