By Jonathan Perreira, Staff Writer
During the second semester of my first year, I found myself totally broke. Actually, I was less than broke. I had negative-four dollars in my checking account and nothing in my savings. That meant that I needed to find a job. I applied to the Starbucks inside Target with a recommendation from a friend who worked there. I quickly received an interview and immediately got the job. I worked at that Starbucks for a year and a half before I landed a job with The Torch. Working at the McDonald’s of coffee allowed me to become a quasi-expert on how Starbucks is made. Please note that Starbucks doesn’t make genuine coffee or lattes like a local café might, but people still absolutely love to get their caffeine fix from this chain. Since UMass Dartmouth’s Library Café converted to a full Starbucks this year, we must ask, do they hold up?
I’m able to watch the employees and understand what machines they’re using, what ingredients they’re using, and if they’re making the drinks in the correct steps and in the correct amount of time. The first thing to note is that the machines and ingredients are not standard Starbucks. Whether they’re better or worse is unknown to me. What I do know, however, is that different machines and ingredients will certainly provide different flavors for the drinks. A common problem with the library lattes is that that they always taste… off. I believe the source is dead shots. To make a typical Starbucks latte, you brew shots of espresso, put syrup in the cup, prepare the milk, then pour the shots and pour the milk. If the espresso sits too long without mixing, the espresso will “die” and become extremely bitter, and it usually ruins a drink.
Normally this happens because a Starbucks is very busy and the employees are trying to complete many drinks at once, and as little as 20 seconds of leaving the espresso unattended will kill it. And as everyone knows, the Library Café is insanely busy. It’s truly astounding how the employees retain their great attitude and vigor while serving an endless amount of college students for an entire work day. It only makes sense that a library barista would accidentally leave shots sitting for 20 seconds. That does, however, lead most lattes they serve tasting much more bitter than they should.
Another issue I notice is that when a drink is flavored, often, most of the syrup grossly sits in the bottom. This isn’t uncommon at a genuine Starbucks, but the problem isn’t as frequent. The Library Café has different syrups, which may make them more viscous and harder to mix with the liquids.
A secret I learned while working as a barista was that when dealing with stickier syrups, it was best to break the order and put the syrup in last and mix it, that way the flavor would spread through the drink. However, I don’t believe the employees tend to break away from their training when it comes to making drinks at such a fast pace.
Many lattes from the Library Café often taste bitter and suddenly sweet, but an extreme kind of sweet. Although the plain coffee tastes alright, some reform would be necessary to turn the drinks delicious. Regardless, the employees clearly work hard and for a very long time, so enjoy your weird latte and your top-notch bagel and show the baristas your gratitude.