As a central part of bringing our signature Community experience to life, our baristas play a vital role in creating a convivial, enjoyable and productive workspace environment. As we celebrate International Coffee Day this October, we also want to take the opportunity to celebrate our Baristas. So, with the help of this year’s fantastic interns, we went around our Centres in Hong Kong and shared a conversation over coffee to get to know our baristas better.
Take a look below to learn about their career, their perspective on being a barista, what makes working at the Barista Bar different from a typical barista job, and their philosophy on fostering relationships with Members through the art of coffee-making.
How has your career path led you to TEC and how do you find the experience as a TEC Barista?
I’ve worked as a Barista for over 7 years now, and I’ve been with TEC for almost 1 year and I think it’s my level of passion for making coffee that has led me to where I am today. What I love about being a barista is that each cup of coffee is unique. Each cup is very much an art that requires skill, concentration, consistency and personality to make a good cup.
At TEC, I get to work the entire station on my own, and in that sense, I have more autonomy, flexibility and creative control compared to other places that I’ve worked at in the past. This also allows me to guarantee quality. If you visit other coffee shops, most of the baristas will have their own recipes and try to represent their own standard to the client, so even though two baristas at one store will be serving the same Latte, you may get two very different cups. Whereas at TEC, we really try to make what our Members want – with consistency – and so as Baristas we’re passionate about going the extra mile to satisfy and bond with our Members since we’re here day in and day out.
I started my journey as a Barista whilst living in Melbourne 2 years ago on an extended working holiday. As I worked part-time, I didn’t have the stress of a full-time job and I think this half-on, half-off nature of my stay and experience enabled me to take a more relaxed and appreciative view of the art of making coffee.
In fact, working at TEC kind of gives me that sort of relaxed whilst creative buzz that I enjoyed in Melbourne. I feel like it is easier to be a barista here than working in another café because the atmosphere here makes it easier to spark a conversation with our Members more casually – and calmly too. Unlike in a typical coffee shop where customers may be doing a morning coffee run or seeking a quick pick-me-up. As I manage the entire station, I also get to organise my time and priority tasks according to what I feel needs to be done in the moment. It allows me to balance between maintaining the bar, the coffee beans whilst also focussing more on quality coffee and Member relationships.
My career has been shaped by almost 9 years of experience as a Barista. Having previously worked in several coffee shops and a restaurant, I was looking for a challenge that enabled me to be more independent and autonomous. That’s what led me to take up the role at TEC.
I feel like in order to be successful here, you must know how to make latte art – as in you really must know the ins and outs and have passion for it. In some of my previous establishments knowing how to make latte art was not a must, in fact it was actively not encouraged since the process takes time and concentration – what they valued was speed and efficiency to meet high demand. In my opinion, this is not art. Working at TEC lets me express myself through the coffee art that I create, and this is invaluable to me as a Barista.
What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
I really enjoy meeting all the Members that come to our Centre. I’ve made many friends, some of whom I have lunch with and even go to exercise classes after work. Another aspect that I really enjoy is having the autonomy to make decisions within the reasonable request, so that even when a Member asks for a drink that’s not on the menu, if I have the ingredients and I know how to make it, then I’ll try to make it! This level of freedom isn’t very common in other coffee places I’ve worked at unless they’re boutique cafes.
Well, when I first started working at TEC, I just loved having the flexibility and creative freedom to make coffee and practicing different types of latte art. However, as time has gone by, I have also found that customer satisfaction and building relationships with our Members also makes me happy. Seeing familiar and happy faces for sure is a highlight of working at the Barista Bar. I also enjoy making coffees that are not on the menu, such as Piccolos and Babyccinos and being able to offer them to our Members occasionally as a surprise.
For me, it’s being able to make coffee art. Here at TEC, I have a lot more freedom to express myself through coffee making, as I can handle the drink quality more effectively – previously I had to work with other colleagues who didn’t care about coffee quality. The nature of my work environment allows me to better and improve myself.
How do you foster good relationships with the Members?
Every time I am making someone a coffee, I make sure to spark up a conversation. I’ve found that I can get along with Members very easily by just being polite, friendly and taking the initiative to talk. One way I can start a conversation easily, for example, is when they ask for our Coffee options, instead of directing them to our menu, I can ask them what they feel like having. Sometimes our Members will know exactly what they want, other times they’ll ask for something we don’t have and sometimes they just have no idea entirely. In this way, this simple interaction lets us have a conversation and for the Members that are new to coffee, I get to slowly introduce our menu to them and occasionally explain the subtle flavour differences of each coffee. Over time, as I get familiar with the Member, I also get to know their favourite drinks and hear their feedback on the coffee.
Sometimes when I’m not too busy I create coffee art – I’ll even surprise members with these practice coffee’s when they aren’t expecting it. I also often ask for feedback on recipes that I am not as confident with. Members often ask for recommendations and suggestions, and when they do, I’m always pleased to offer options. Actually, I’m so pleased to have the opportunity to improve on my skills with practice cups and not having to waste them.
I like to have a quick chat with Members during the coffee making process. It’s not all just about having technical skill and expert knowledge – being able to relate to Members is key to my job at TEC!