Community-Driven Cafes

By Elise Richardson, Temple Coffee Educator

I started working in specialty coffee when I was in college. I assumed it would be a temporary job, but seven years later I’m still learning and growing in my craft. I am continually fascinated by just how much there is to learn about coffee such as farming and processing, roasting, and brewing everything from Chemex to espresso. I also fell in love with the café culture. I loved being a part of someone’s every day ritual, being a crucial part of their community and family. I never would have guessed that a simple act of preparing a handcrafted beverage for someone every morning would allow me the time to develop a genuine relationship with them.

I worked as a barista serving coffee at Temple’s S Street café for just over two years before joining the training department last September. Switching to the training department has allowed me to step back and see how our cafes function as unique meeting places for each community. While most of our baristas work at a single store, being a trainer allows me to travel to all locations doing on-site training and checking for quality. From the start of Temple in 2005, it has always been our goal to reflect our guests. And somehow, each store has its own feel, its own strengths, and its own customers. We even went to the extent of making store-specific mugs reflecting each of our unique locations.

As a barista, we often get the special opportunity of being our customer’s first interaction of the morning. We have a responsibility to provide as much positivity and love that we can in the middle of a very difficult day or a very lonely season. I can’t tell you how many times I have come into a café and been overwhelmed by the volume of names and drinks the baristas remember. I regularly see employees sitting with a customer on their break discussing books or whatever college classes they are taking. We have asked about new houses that have been purchased and renovated, met guests’ kids that are in town from college, and gone to local businesses or art shows after work to support our customers. In addition to making your coffee, we have asked about your new bathroom wall paint or tips on how to soothe a teething baby. I’ve personally witnessed women make the switch from regular to decaf and, in what seems like the blink of an eye, suddenly their toddler is walking through our front doors. I have been invited to baby showers and wedding receptions. I even ran into three different customers the last time I went to IKEA! This everyday ritual of getting a cup of coffee may be a quick interaction, but we hope it is a memorable one.

For as much emphasis that Temple puts towards excellent coffee and education, we truly do care about a genuine and special customer service experience. As a business, it is the only way to survive. I remember my manager telling me to try and make every customer interaction unique and somehow that stuck with me. There is no place for pretentiousness. There is no place for pride or an attitude. The baristas work hard on creating a community, a welcoming place for everyone. The café is just as much a part of the customer’s life as it is our lives. It is as much of an experience and relationship as you want, so get to know your barista. Learn their name; they would love to learn yours.