COFFEE has evolved from just a hurried way of jolting the senses to a means of bringing people together. And a silent witness of these sweet reunions is just behind the counter: Bean Hoppers’ “barista” Mike Reyes.

Working for a coffee shop seems a good way to go for this Hotel and Restaurant Management graduate and he has been working for Bean Hoppers even before the shop opened a branch at the UST Carpark.

Like every Bean Hoppers barista, Mike also went through a series of trainings in preparing various blends of coffee.

“It is not really difficult to be a barista. Actually, it is more exciting to make coffee, especially those that have designs (and garnishing),” Mike said.

Yet in that short span of time, Mike has already seen people from different walks of life order their favorite beverages to start — or end — their day. Students and faculty members do paper works or simply while away their time with friends, while doctors and medical professionals from the UST Hospital usually have their coffee breaks and special meetings in the shop.

Work starts at 6:30 in the morning. By then, Mike should have already set up the espresso machine and warmed it up for 30 minutes, prepared the coffee grinder, and checked the stocks.

Though these may seem routine for this 38-year-old bartender, Mike said that he and his co-workers do rotations every day depending on the schedule set by their manager.

“In Bean Hoppers, baristas are not just baristas. We also get in touch with the kitchen and cook food such as steak and pasta,” he said.

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Yet the greatest challenge for Mike is to actually maintain the taste of Bean Hoppers’ products. Many factors affecting the quality of beverages should be considered such as the quality of beans and the way they are grinded. Hot drinks should also be served immediately since the shop is air-conditioned..

Aroma and concoctions

When my turn to be a barista came, I thought that I would not break a sweat working in a coffee shop considering I was a food chain employee myself. But when I donned the standard black shirt uniform, and entered the front counter, everything changed.

The cold feeling brought by the air-conditioners mixed with the aroma of coffee made me quite calm. The dim lights also provided a less stressed atmosphere, while the couches and wooden chairs also made the shop look like a typical living room and dining room at the same time.

These things sets Bean Hoppers apart from a fast food chain where the bright lights, plastic chairs and less-than-a-minute-service, compels everyone into a frenzy.

Most customers stay inside the coffee shop and read newspapers or magazines, while having a sip of their favorite beverage.

The types of beverage Mike serves somewhat tell something about the customers who order them. Students usually go for Frappes or cold blended drinks because of their sweet taste, while older professionals prefer a shot of espresso or a cup of steaming coffee.

But in order to prepare various beverages, one has to learn to use the espresso machine, flavored syrups, and other condiments, which made me realize that Mike’s job was relatively complicated

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Mike taught me how to use the coffee grinder the equipment that dispenses coffee beans, the espresso machine, which mixes hot water with the grinded coffee. Both pieces have their own complexities, with several buttons to press for specific functions. I also got the chance to use the whipped cream dispenser and put the cream on to blended drinks. It was very hard because one needed controlled pressure in dispensing the whipped cream.

When my first customer ordered a drink, Mike helped me dispense the coffee properly from the grinder, put it in the espresso machine and make it a shot of steaming espresso by pressing the button indicating the function “one shot.” Then we mixed the espresso to a cup that contained hot water. I thought that making a Café Americano was easy since it contains one shot of espresso and hot water. I was wrong.

When the line of customers grew longer, I became more confused of what to do first and how I would do it. But Mike was just calm and did all the orders one by one, a technique he came to master during his nine years of service.

“When orders are that many, the key in doing them is to do similar drinks at the same time, like two coffees or two blended drinks,” Mike said.

Although he, at one point, also got confused with the orders and with what to do next, Mike still saw to it that he did not miss out on any detail of any beverage, like the foamed milk for Cappuccino and flavored syrup garnishing for frappes.

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Before I left Mike to do his job for the day, he let me experience making my very own Strawberry Frappe. It was fulfilling to do so, but the beverage was nothing compared to Mike’s coffee enjoyed by many Thomasians, young and old alike.


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