While everyone has a favourite Starbucks beverage, it takes a skilled barista to create the massive array of secret menu items. These professionals are referred to as Coffee Masters at Starbucks, and while all baristas behind the counter likely have chops, the Coffee Masters can explain the how and why. They are the individuals to contact if you have a question about which roast to try or the amount of caffeine in that double espresso shot you just drank. (Whoops.)
According to Starbucks Stories, there are over 5,000 active Coffee Masters in Starbucks stores worldwide. According to a statement sent to Tasting Table by Starbucks, the process of becoming a Coffee Master is rigors and begins during new employee orientation. Starbucks baristas must pass three levels of the “Coffee Academy” to become a Starbucks Coffee Master: level 100, which all baristas are now trained on and covers coffee basics; level 200, which provides Starbucks baristas with a more nuanced understanding of coffee varieties, brewing methods, and how to craft espresso drinks, as well as information on ethical sourcing; and level 300, which delves even deeper into these topics. After passing all three levels, the cafe chain bestows the title of Coffee Master on baristas.
Now that we’ve established the extent to which Starbucks Coffee Masters are knowledgeable, how do we identify them?
Keep an eye out for black aprons during the morning coffee rush. Those are the advantages! According to Starbucks, the signature apron has been an integral part of the uniform since the company’s 1971 opening in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Employees in the beginning wore brown grocer’s aprons. Starbucks did not introduce black aprons as a special designation for certified Coffee Masters until the early 1990s.
David Avery, a black-apron-wearing Coffee Master and ten-year barista, explained the symbol’s prestige in an interview with Eat It, Virginia! “The black apron is reserved for those who wish to continue their growth and development within the organisation,” he explained. “Obtaining that apron was a significant achievement for me.” Along with the apron, Starbucks informed Tasting Table that employees receive a pin upon successful completion of their level 300 Coffee Academy training.
Now, it can be a significant event for you as well. For curious coffee enthusiasts at home, Starbucks recently launched the Starbucks Coffee Academy programme, which teaches customers about coffee beans. The academy is a self-paced online course for beginners, beginning with fundamental coffee knowledge and progressing through the levels. Therefore, the next time you walk into your neighbourhood Starbucks, keep an eye out for a black apron and perhaps even ask a question — you’re sure to learn something.