The thing about hospitality

When you study Business in Maastricht University, the most common thing to hear from anyone is that they are afraid of boring white collar jobs. Rarely anyone can imagine sitting in an office for long hours, facing a computer screen and not being sure what the hell you are doing and why. Our goal is to feel fulfillment. We want to travel the world and feel a purpose. Still, most of us end up in one of many consultancies or in a fancy start-up in Berlin, Copenhagen or Amsterdam. I am not saying this in a judging way, but I do not see myself in these jobs. Let me explain why I think I found a quite nice alternative in being a Barista.

First things first: When you want to meet interesting people, go for Coffee Places. It is where you find all kinds of people. Those who start drawing a picture while drinking a coffee and go on drawing for the next five hours. Those who take out their guitar and start playing a concert for their audience on the other side of a skype screen. Those who find a reason to discuss in every move you make. Those who just throw around warmhearted compliments and those who are always mad. You do not only learn to accept all these people, you furthermore start feeling what they feel, and start feeling attached to them. They tell you their stories, and you start to care. And when they come back, you feel glad they did, because you want to know how their story continues. People tell the most amazing stories with a cup of coffee in their hand.

At the same time, those people teach you to be patient at any moment. To smile and to be friendly whatever question they might ask. Trust me, if you ever thought there would be no stupid questions… no there are a lot. Still, you reply friendly and courteous, and you do so with an abnormal positivity, that’s gastronomy!

On the other hand, it is tough work. You have busy days. It is Saturday, you work for 8 hours and you are on fire with no breaks. There’s barely time to sit for a second, because once you do so you’ll find a row of people who want coffee and a pile of cups and plates that need to be washed. You did not eat anything for 8 hours and you feel exhausted. Sometimes you feel sick of it, but you do not allow yourself to leave out. There are colleagues that count on you, and there are customers who came for “the best coffee in town”, so you keep going. In the end of the day, you just sit there, try to feel your legs and smile about the funny little moments you had throughout the day. There is hardly comparison to the satisfaction you feel after these long days.

Master of Beans and Latte Art


So apparently you do need an MBA to find out that making your own coffee is not just a prerequisite when you decide to work for a startup, but also a skill, art and science.

Did you actually know that coffee is a cherry-like fruit? That people used to eat coffee? That the first coffee brewed probably tasted worse than dishwasher water? Some still do apparently...Well, three months ago when we had the glorious idea to get into the coffee trade, we did not even know the difference between an arabica bean and a hazelnut... 

The easier part for sure was to make assumptions out of thin air, validate them in an Excel sheet, prove the business case in Word and prepare an outstanding summary presentation in power point. Not really - now the real work is to actually get the milk foam just about the right temperature and consistency so that the hearts you attempt to draw on your latte do not look like rotten apples.

More importantly, now we know better: not just do our hearts look legit,.but we also know our Colombian from the Ethiopian and get the milk to espresso ratio right, we know a flat white from a cappuccino and understand why you should never never never keep your beans ground and exposed to air. 

The longest practical class and exhausting learning curve along the coffee belt - but totally worth it when your new office smells of fresh ground coffee every day.

Banker by Day, Barista by Night.

Not really a banker, but the title sounds admittedly better. The dream of having my own coffee place has been haunting me for a number of years now and just like getting married or having a baby - with everything being more important and urgent, never seems just about the right time,

Closer than never, it looks like we are getting around it this time. Together with my younger brother, we have finally decided to take the dive into cold water - or hot espresso - and launch the journey.