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Etymology and inflection
The word barista is an Italian word, and in Italy, a barista is a male or female "bartender", who typically works behind a counter, serving both hot drinks (such as espresso), and cold alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, not a coffee-maker specifically.
The native plural in English is baristas, while in Italian the plural is baristi for masculine or mixed sex (baristi: "barmen", "bartenders") or bariste for feminine (bariste: "barmaids").
Application of the title
While the title is not regulated, most coffee shops use the title to describe the preparer of coffee and operator of an espresso machine.
Baristas generally operate a commercial espresso machine, and their role is preparing and pulling the shot; the degree to which this is automated or done manually varies significantly, ranging from push-button operation to an involved manual process. Espresso is a notoriously finicky beverage and good manual espresso making is considered a skilled task. Further, preparation of other beverages, particularly milk-based drinks such as cappuccinos and lattes, but also non-espresso coffee such as drip or press pot, requires additional work and skill for effective frothing, pouring and most often latte art.
The barista usually has been trained to operate the machine and to prepare the coffee based on the guidelines of the roaster or shop owner, while more experienced baristas may have discretion to vary preparation or experiment; a seasoned veteran will need little training beyond specifics of equipment and beans used and the shop's preferences.
Beyond the preparation of espresso and other beverages and general customer service, skilled baristas acquire knowledge of the entire process of coffee to effectively prepare a desired cup of coffee, including maintenance and programming of the machine, grinding methods, roasting, and coffee plant cultivation, similar to how a sommelier is familiar with the entire process of wine making and consumption. A barista can acquire these skills by attending training classes, but they are more commonly learned on the job.
Formal barista competitions originated in Norway, and today the most prestigious is the World Barista Championships, held annually at varied international locations. Baristas worldwide compete, though they must first compete in a competition held in their own country to qualify to enter in the WBC.
Starbucks took the idea of a coffee shop and streamlined the process. The espresso shots are pulled entirely the same every time, on a machine.
- Wendelboe, Tim (May 1, 2005) The Future of the World Barista Championship. "CoffeeGeek.com" Retrieved on 2006-oct-25
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