Love Your Barista
Your eyes meet over steaming milk - what happens when you fall in love with your barista?
Every woman I know has a crush on her coffee guy.
There's just something about the way he pours love-hearts into a cup that makes our hearts beat faster, and the way he froths the milk that makes women froth at the mouth.
Cynics may blame our caffeine addictions for our infatuation, but there's no denying the local coffee hunk has qualities other men don't. He can give a woman what she wants in less than five minutes, and do it all while wearing a cute apron.
For all our fantasising, though, how would our barista stack up in a relationship? Are baristas the men of our dreams, or are we just victims of a caffeine-induced delusion? After visiting her Haymarket cafe every day for a couple of months, Veronica*, 29, realised she was in a silent love affair with her barista. The crush was sparked by a wink and perpetuated by a daily two-word conversation: "The usual?" he'd ask, to which she would nod and smile. "The funny thing was I never told anyone about it," she says.
"It sort of existed in this bubble of its own."
Looking back, Veronica, a psychologist, now has a fair idea of what took place. "It's a situation where the woman has the power," she says. "So there's the thrill of being in control. Things that are [unattractive] about men, whether they're arrogant or controlling, can't occur in that dynamic. They've got to listen. They've got to do what you ask them."
Former barista-dater and psychologist, Alex Jenkins, agrees. "It's very easy to fall in love with someone who's bending over backwards for you ... [it] kind of implies how they would be in the relationship."
"You've got the frothing of the milk and the biceps showing," sighs Veronica. "You [could even] go so far as to say the phallus of the milk nozzle ..."
These factors, along with our Pavlovian anticipation of the caffeine hit (excitement, increased heart-rate, dilating pupils - all symptoms that mimic the feeling of falling in love) concoct a magical fantasy that our barista is The One. But the reality is, he most likely isn't.
When I talked to a handful of Sydney baristas, the overwhelming consensus was that flirting or "building a rapport" with customers is part of the job, and that all those sweet-natured traits you see in the cafe don't often translate to real life. Most baristas are well aware of the spellbinding power of coffee-flirting and milk it for all it's worth.
When Tristan Chan, 34, started working at Apartment Cafe in the CBD, barely two weeks passed before he was propositioned by a customer. "Somebody invited me up to his apartment to ‘look at his view'. I didn't say no; I said, ‘Oh yeah, maybe': but I haven't seen his view yet."
Even though Chan is heterosexual with a girlfriend, he says it's important for baristas to never let on that they're attached. "You always have to seem available, because then [the customers] come back."
Tim, the 32-year-old manager of the Berkelouw Booklounge Cafe in Leichhardt, has received everything from lingering looks to drawings and poetry left under latte glasses. Meanwhile, David Campbell, owner of The Book Kitchen in Surry Hills, recalls his former barista Ed Cutcliffe, 26, who is now working at Piccolo Padre in Rozelle, as "a standout for being able to attract a regular female clientele".
Cutcliffe, who is also a model, modestly shrugs off any suggestion that half the innerwest is stalking him, although he admits to noticing "a few lingerers in the background" of his cafe.
Crushes happen, he believes, because people have such a small window of opportunity to work with: we're more willing to let our guard down when we have only 20 or 30 seconds. "I think if it was any longer people would stay slightly more at arm's length," he says.
It also means we never have enough contact with our barista to shatter the illusion. "You never get to see their dirty laundry, or that they're not cooking you dinner," says Jenkins. "They never disappoint, so they become the ideal fantasy partner, they could be anything you want them to be."
Probably better it stays that way. In reality, both Chan and Cutcliffe are too tired to cook or clean for their girlfriends at home, and Tim describes himself as "a nightmare" in a relationship. "I can be misread through that light generosity that happens in the [cafe] transaction," he says. "It's not false, I enjoy social banter, but one-on-one I'm really quite intense and I guess that's something people might not bargain for when they see me in the coffee situation."
Tim's right. When you break it down, the whole barista-equals-man-of-our-dreams theory is flawed. Baristas are just normal guys who deal us legal drugs with deliciously COFFEE, TEA OR ME?
Do you have a crush on someone who serves you? Ever acted on it?
HOW TO SNARE YOUR CRUSH
1. Make eyes CBD barista Tristan Chan recommends lingering eye contact with minimal conversation: "It's very intriguing."
2. Know your coffee Don't order a skim soy decaf cappuccino with extra froth and no chocolate. It screams indecisiveness.
3. Down time Come in when the barista's not busy - usually mid- afternoon.
4. Less is more. Surry Hills barista Cameron recommends walking into the cafe wearing nothing but a trench coat, or to bring in photos of you in lingerie with a phone number on the back: "I would like to see that happen more often."
5. Love hearts The love heart on top of your coffee is always good fuel for jokes. "If you're interested, make a little jest about it and if the barista wants, he can continue it on," suggests Ed Cutcliffe.
6. Be cool. Psychologist Alex Jenkins advises against coming on too strong. "If baristas had a lot of people gushing over them, playing hard to get would be more irresistible."
If anything, take advantage of your power as the customer by waiting for them to initiate conversation.
7. Be a regular. Baristas love routine and will more likely remember you if you come in at the same time every day.
8. Be strategic. Go with a friend and have a loud conversation about where you're going that night. "But don't ask him what time he finishes unless you're sure he's interested," Ed recommends.
9. Don't cross the line. The thrill of the crush lies in the possibility of something happening, not in the certainty that it won't.
Have a Nice Love! :)