Baffled by the tip jar at your local café? Just like bartenders, baristas deserve a little dough for making your daily cup delicious every morning.
Tipping etiquette can be a hard field to navigate, especially when it varies so much from culture to culture. While most of us are familiar with tipping our waiter and waitresses, hair stylists, and hotel staff, few people may realize it’s not a bad idea to tip baristas (the Italian word for coffee and espresso expert), especially if you visit a coffee shop daily. After more than five years behind the counter at coffee shops, I’ve noticed a few trends in tipping for a perfect latte.
Some people believe in throwing in a dollar for each drink regardless of effort or attitude on the barista’s part. While we don’t mind this, of course, fair tipping should be based on the speed and friendliness of service, as well as the complexity and quality of the coffee drink. If the barista is simply leaning over to pour a cup of drip coffee, we expect no more than a quarter or your bit of spare change. Pulling the lever on a coffee urn doesn’t take much, so we don’t expect much either.
Espresso drinks take a little more time, and believe it or not, there’s some skill involved. Whether you’re ordering a latte (espresso with steamed milk), a cappuccino (espresso with steamed milk and foam), a mocha (espresso with steamed milk and chocolate) or anything in-between, expect to throw a little more in the jar. Assuming the coffee shop staff are friendly and the barista is efficient in producing a well-made beverage, a dollar would be nice.
Not sure how to make sure your latte is perfect? Look for smooth, velvety milk at a temperature of 140-170 degrees Fahrenheit. If the milk is truly perfect, the barista will create a swirl of latte art on the top of your drink–it should be smooth with few to no bubbles. The espresso should be more sweet than bitter, usually with a tart, toasty taste. The barista might make this look easy, but it takes lots and lots of practice. If your beverage is less than perfectly delicious, feel free to adjust your tip accordingly.
For some people, drinking coffee is a daily ritual, and the local coffee staff might be some of the first people they encounter every morning. Baristas wake up early and take pride in creating great espresso drinks that help get people’s day off to a good start. If you do frequent your local cafe, don’t neglect tipping when you can. Your appreciation won’t go unnoticed, and your service might even get better!