Friday Morning Coffee Break: Understanding the art of the craft

Understanding the service industry from a craft perspective can sometimes be difficult, it can be discouraging, it can be confusing, and sometimes it can be so self involved that you sometimes forget that at the end of the day you are just making something people can make at home…for a lot cheaper than you make it at your shop. 

What happens, for me at least, is that sometimes working hard to perfect your craft you get so caught up in it that you forget the most important part of your craft. That of serving your customers. You start to see uneducated clientele as the enemy and your start to take their disdain for your work (because honestly it IS a pain in the ass to wait four minutes for a black coffee or listen to the history of the type of beer your being poured) as a personal attack against you. You become a slave to the craft and shun people because they are not at your level. You expect that if you put your blood, sweat, and tears into this product that people should be willing to take the same amount of effort to enjoy and understand your product from your perspective. This is what I call the evil craft hyperbole. When we try to perfect the craft we are in, we become pretentious defending what we are doing. This is a sick and vicious cycle. 1. You want to do the best you can 2. When you try to do the best you can, you clientele may not understand 3. This creates a separation between you and your customers 4. Pretentiousness, which is just hurt feelings, forms and pushes away the same people you want to help.

Sometimes it becomes hard because you get so buried in this Craft Hyperbole that you can’t dig yourself out without a little bit of

Raffi Photo done by Don Hajicek Photography for Style Magazine. ALL CREDIT MUST GO TO HIM SO I DO NOT GET SUED OR THIS GETS TAKEN DOWN! Go check out his site!

help. Sometimes, even us craft people need a little encouragement and help from each other. Enter my good friend Raffi! I first met Raffi through a mutual friend and was fascinated by his immense appreciation of mixology. He worked at Elliot’s Martini bar in Old Town Fort Collins, CO and currently resides as the “head bartender” at Cafe Vino. The man understands what it means to make a cocktail. Not just pouring in sugary sweeteners or cream and making something super frou frou. He actually knows how to make what my ladyfriend calls Old Man Drinks. I am talking about drinks like Old Fashions, Manhattans, and real martinis with vermouth and gin. He wants to source the highest quality liquors and incorporate local products and fresh made juices into his drinks. Basically he wants to make real drinks and make something of a high quality that he feels proud about serving. He also truly values the experience at a bar or coffeeshop. We both share similar ideas on producing craft products and libations. Him in booze and I in coffee. In fact, this past week him and I were geeking out about what to spend money on when opening up a shop. We both decided on a bomb ass ice machine. Yes, you heard that right, an ice machine.

Anyways, over this past week, him and I both have been having similar troubles at work. Questioning how far our reach goes into improving things, maintaining high standards, and helping educate our clientele in a way that doesn’t make them feel like we are talking down to them. It gets really hard because you feel so helpless sometimes. You question why you do what you do. We both had the opportunity to learn our crafts on our own without any real mentor or tutor so we were able to have a lot of creative freedom. For me, I know that it has forced me to feel like I have to prove myself everyday at work. Everyday I don’t feel like I deserve to be there and that I am fighting to be in my position. Same with him. But, feeling inferior and like you really aren’t set in any strong foundation, but people looking up to you like you are the best there is at what you do is real hard. Not trying to be egotistical but it gets hard because people default to your preferences on how to do things. Even worse, they just let you do it your way and maintain your high qualities, but they lack any effort in trying to improve their own standards. So they never ask you why or question the way things are done. A lot of times you hear at work “that is just the way it is done” or “people like person x or person y but that is okay because everyone does it differently.”

Not having our own mentors you come to a crossroads. You can either become super self-involved and take that mentality that you are the biggest fish in the pond or you feel hopeless and frustrated because your view of the world that you live in is drastically different than everyone around you and have no one to turn to for support.People look up to you as knowing what your doing. Or on the flip side they brush your ways off because they are different than what they know and therefore are no improvement whatsoever. Being in this industry and especially trying to bring an upper echelon of craft to city like Fort Collins can sometimes leave you a little lost. But at least we have each other. And what we both take away from each other is that being at the forefront of the craft renaissance takes a strong leadership and ownership of your skills.

Firstly it means taking a leadership role and constantly pursuing perfection in all things that you make. In doing so you can hopefully encourage more of that mentality in those around you.

Secondly, not having a mentor is difficult, but it takes you sticking to your guns but being humble and constantly striving to learn and educate yourself and try to become better at your job and not allowing the little details to overcome you.

Thirdly, you have to keep pushing to try and improve and improve those around you, but know when it is time to throw in the towel and choose your battles accordingly. Not everyone will be open to what your brewing (pun intended) but somewhere down the road karma will allow you to succeed.

Lastly, you always have to enjoy what you do and surround yourself with those people that appreciate what you do. Not to create a little cocoon of support that your ego can feed off of, but to create a support group that can help you find your way.

Being a “professional” in the service industry is extremely hard. And this post I now realize has done nothing to make it any easier or to ease the understanding of what we do isn’t just some huge ego boosting, self involved career path. But it is hard to figure out how to take what I do everyday and make it understood. That is a big reason why I love being a Barista and creating a craft beverage. Because I can’t say why this industry is misunderstood or ask you to see it from my perspective. I have to show you with what I create and by showing you my passion through what I create.

Here’s a fun Craft Bar video that inspires me to keep doing what I do and make me realize I have so much farther to go in my career if I stay in libations.


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