Welcome to day 20 of 30. You may have noticed that I missed a day yesterday. Sadly, as I have had a few very busy days here in Japan I decided that it would be better to skip a day and (hopefully) make a better post than to rush through a post in 15 minutes.

Last time I talked about barista wages and what that “prestige” position could be. Today I want to talk about what that role probably should entail. I have been looking for elements that already exist in the real world that help describe what it is that I think the professional role should encompass, and the wine industry already has a great perspective.

So I took the professional sommelier expectations and turned them into a barista format. In thise case I labeled it “Varista” (or versatile barista) since I still think the term for this prestige position needs a different label. The following is what I consider a great start in defining a new position.


The above file starts out looking at expectations and essentially gives a bit of an image of what the role entails. There are many ways a position like this could be implemented in a cafe, so I don’t want to restrict the possibilities of any one operation by saying it should fit into my singular vision.

I continue with some overall rapport and general points to follow.

This full document should be pretty easy to agree with from my point of view. 

While I feel that defining these concepts for what a “varista”, “master barista” “coffee weirdo” or whatever it may be called are fairly straightforward, I do want to say a little bit more of something that came to my mind after the last post on wages.

This has to do with what we are doing in the industry. I think many of us agree that there is a need for professional development and better positions and pay for highly educated baristas, but what we don’t have is a completely clear and transparent path to reach the goal positions. I believe part of this is because as a young industry we are still discovering things about both the product and how to make it. The result is that we seem to redefine what we consider “best practices” every year. 

I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing, but it creates instability and confusion all over. So until we have a more stable and steady movement in our progressions creating this path to professional positions will be hard to pull off. 

SCAA/SCAE have created “pathways” for professional classes lately, but the problem is that these classes do not create a new position to move to. They simply give what I consider book knowledge in subjects that relate to existing coffee jobs. Obtaining these certifications do not mean you will be able to be hired, or even have qualifying knowledge, of these industry positions. Of course the same can be said of wine. Passing a sommelier curriculum does not mean you automatically have a job as a professional somm. In the long run the SCA likely should be the ones providing this clear path, but it still needs considerable work.

The expectations I have outlined above can and should be a part of a top level professional barista certification, as they can help establish the attitude and behavior expected of the best in an industry. 

I hope this is an interesting discussion for you. If you are signed up for my email list I will send this professional demeanor file as a PDF to you, so please make sure to get on the list!

See you next time,