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  • Writer's pictureMason Edwards!

Starbucks Baristas Serve Coffee with Compliments

By Mason Edwards, Staff Writer for the University Echo

Sofi Jaimes writes down Madison Vumbalough's name down on her drink cup. Thursday, September 22, 2022. Mason Edwards, Staff Writer

From serving students to celebrities, it’s the baristas who put the star in Starbucks.

Despite usually taking orders on the register, Victoria “Tori” Shade has made pastries the last few days, warming cheese danishes and banana bread cakes in the toaster oven.

For Shade, the job is sometimes messy and stressful, but she shares a close bond with her co-workers. Like with any food service job, frustrations arise, particularly when customers treat her less like a person and more like a kiosk. However, the work feels worth it, especially when the staff can band together and have a good laugh– as they did recently.

According to Shade, and corroborated by another co-worker, UTC alumnus and NFL Hall of Famer Terrell Owens visited the campus Starbucks. After ordering for himself and paying for everyone else’s drinks, he kept quiet for the most part.

“Last week, Terrell Owens came in, and I had no idea who he was,” Shade chuckled. “He had my co-worker write his name as ‘Handsome.’ I wouldn’t call it out, so my co-worker had to call out ‘drink for Handsome.’”

Second-hand embarrassment aside, writing on cups is one example of how the UTC Starbucks employees and customers express themselves. This freedom creates a multi-functional space, suited for students to converse, snack or study.

One student, Tristan Dean, sips his drink as he flips the pages of his communications book. His earbuds mute the hum of the crowd, letting him study without disruption.

“[Starbucks] is a very quiet and soothing place to stay,” Dean said. “Caffeine just flows through my veins at this point.”

The closer the clock ticks to lunch, the further the line twists away from the registers and towards the door. Even with a queue, the baristas begin an order by asking about the customer’s morning or day or complimenting their outfit.

Leonardo Vega looked at the chalkboard wall. As a senior, he values its freedom, but also remembers times the workers confiscated the chalk.

“It’s a wall we all share to express ourselves, whether that be a picture of a dog or mushroom,” Vega said. “It gives our Starbucks a sense of togetherness and community.”

Some of the content builds a connection between the baristas and artists, according to barista Bizzy Walker.

“We try to change up the questions [and] try to ask things to keep it clean,” Walker said. “We see who likes to come in and draw things, and we get to meet the artists. It’s fun to watch and talk to people with cool artwork abilities.”

For junior Tyler Crowell, serving drinks is as natural as riding a bicycle.

“I really like making drinks, I like that I have it all memorized,” Crowell said. “I think we are a vital part of campus. If you see how many people come in and out every day, getting their coffee every morning and breakfast pastries, [you would agree].”

Despite a growing crowd, the workers keep a reliable rhythm. Soon enough, the students clear out, leaving them time to clean. Time is precious inside and outside of work.

“I have to section out my time, I have to have specific sections where I go and study or work,” Crowell said. “It’s a lot of scheduling and planning ahead.”

With three semesters of experience behind her Starbucks apron, Walker summarizes the importance of their job.

“I definitely think [Starbucks] is the lifeblood of the campus, because everyone needs their caffeine or they’ll be miserable,” Walker said.

Regardless of the job’s challenges, they all see themselves working together for the foreseeable future.

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