JOE: How long have you been a barista?
HB: I’ve been a barista here for a year and a half, but I also worked in Westwood for about six months as well.
JOE: Is there a difference in the clientele there and here?
HB: Definitely. In Westwood we made our own almond milk and own hemp milk for our drinks. And the espresso machine was much more hands on and you have to tap the shots versus here you don’t tap the shots, the machine does it for you. And Westwood has a lot more clientele since it’s near UCLA.
JOE: What’s the most popular here?
HB: I would probably say it’s the salted caramel cold brew. Either that or the pink drinks are very popular right now.
JOE: For ladies or men?
HB: (laughs) Ladies.
JOE: And what about the other place?
HB: It was mainly cold brews. I feel like that’s more of a college audience right there. It’s a lot of ice coffee, a lot of cold brews, not so much specialized drinks with college students since cold brew’s been more popular in the past, like five, six years, that has more caffeine content. So a lot of people do that. But here we do refills on iced coffee and cold brews. So a lot of people prefer that because you can sit outside and study and then come back for refills.
JOE: Has anybody asked you to do a custom drink or something unusual?
HB: So since the rise of TikTok has recently been going on, which is like a new social media app, there’s some crazy combinations. Kids will come in here and show us their phones and ask for 20 modifications. I made one, and I want to say they called it like a sunrise tea. And they said, OK, I want lemonade, and then you have to put the syrup on top of the lemonade in the cup and then strawberry puree and then more syrup and then put strawberry açai refresher on it. And so it layers because the syrup keeps the layers. And then if it doesn’t layer, they’re like, No, this isn’t how you’re supposed to make it. And I’m like, Oh, okay, let me make sure that’s on the menu. But I think it’s a huge trend right now and people just go crazy to see what kind of crazy drinks they can make. Sometimes I get drinks with like three bananas added to them and it never works out too well because that won’t fit in the cup.
JOE: Anything else?
HB: I’ll get like quadruple blended. I don’t know what that does, but for some, it does a lot.
JOE: Do they drink it here or take it out?
HB: They always take it out.
JOE: And do they think any of those taste good?
HB: Some of the lemonade-based ones, yes. The coffee ones I’m not sure because they’ll mix a lot of different syrups together. But currently, the raspberry syrups made a big comeback here with the lemonade due to like the TikTok drinks. So now most of the stores are having shortages on the raspberry syrup, which I’ve never seen happen here in my year and a half.
JOE: Do they have coffee in them also?
HB: No, it’s just usually lemonade and sometimes the strawberry outside the base.
JOE: Have you ever had to turn anybody down for a request that they’re asking for?
HB: So far, no. Unless we’re out of a prime ingredient, but that hasn’t really happened yet.
JOE: What’s your favorite drink?
HB: I do straight-up cold brew or I’ll do a passion tea without water and without sweetener.
JOE: So, are baristas social with each other? Do you socialize with other baristas?
HB: Yeah. Actually one of the shift supervisors who I used to work with found another location is my roommate now. So yeah, I say we all become friends. It’s kind of like a little family.
JOE: How did you become a barista to begin with?
HB: I went to UCLA and I was originally at the place near campus, but I went and studied abroad. So when I returned that had closed in Westwood and my friend who’s my roommate now said this place is hiring, you should come work here. So now I’m here.
JOE: Did you drink coffee at coffee shops overseas anywhere?
HB: I did. I actually went to a Starbucks over there. I studied in France, so I was in Paris. I went to a lot of the cafes there. And it’s mainly espresso there, and the Starbucks there are very different with their sizes. So here a grande is a medium and there that’s their largest size but it’s the same size cup. But I’d say the espresso machines over there were a lot more complicated in a sense, but it pulled out perfect shots every time. Like, I never felt like the coffee was burnt, which sometimes can happen with our machines if there’s not enough espresso in them. But the coffee over there is definitely a lot stronger. But it’s shorter shots, which are more ristretto, which is an option you can do for shots, and it’s a shorter amount of time, but that means it’s more concentrated.
JOE: Are you serving any VIPs and celebrities here?
HB: Tom Hanks’ son, Chet used to be a regular over the summer. Shia LaBeouf sometimes comes in here. Travis Barker from Blink 182 came here about a month ago. So it’s here and there.
JOE: Are they like regular customers or kind of special?
HB: Very much like regular customers because they always have, like, hats on or they’ll wear like sunglasses. So you don’t really notice. I used to work for a talent agency too, so I’ve seen celebrities’ orders and I say they’re pretty basic but because a lot of them are in social media and the media in general, there’s such body image pressure on them that it’s very simple beverages.