Long in the truth

I understand that it's unfashionable for professional baristas to talk about Starbucks, but if you will humor me for a moment, we're going to go there.

Look, I'm no snob. I know what I'm doing, and I know a lot about coffee and what differentiates the good from the bad. But if I can enjoy a cheeseburger as much as I enjoy a filet mignon (and I can), then I'm not above allowing myself the guilty pleasure of a Frappuccino every once in a while. You feel me?

(Also, ok, let's face it, there is a Starbucks so close to my apartment that I could practically spit on it from my couch. And sometimes, when I'm walking home from the gym, I want a coffee or an iced tea, and I'm not easily convinced to walk my elliptical machine–sore legs the extra three blocks to get really, incredibly good coffee. So I break rank and go in, and sometimes, I really love it.)

Do you know why I really love going to the totally anonymous Starbucks near my house sometimes? Because I don't have to be embarrassed if I decide I want to order something really fussy or, on my own turf, deemed "beneath" a true coffee professional's accepted range of taste

There is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this

Today, for instance, I ordered a "grande" (ugh) black unsweetened iced tea with no ice. I would never in my wildest dreams think of going to a coffee shop where I knew people who worked there and ordering an iced tea without ice, but I did it today without one moment's hesitation.

And this got me to thinking.

Last weekend, my boss(es) hosted what they called a Staff Hospitality Seminar. It was a sit-down meeting lasting a little over an hour, in which we discussed and were given examples of what Danny Meyer calls "Enlightened Hospitality."

What is Enlightened Hospitality? It means always being on the side of the customer. It means always understanding and acknowledging the way your words and actions make someone else feel. It means being patient, generous and kind. It means bringing an atmosphere of fun and focus to the workplace.

It means that I shouldn't have to be embarrassed to order whatever I want from wherever I want, and neither should a single one of my customers, even if their favorite drink is something I personally and secretly consider 100% absurd.

Enlightened Hospitality is the philosophy around which we are encouraged to work and live every day, and it's essentially the entire mission statement of the shop, outside of other important tenets about quality and cleanliness. Once I leave the environment we've created by following these principals, I feel somewhat vulnerable as a customer, exposed to the moods and whims of other people who don't necessarily hold these guidelines to themselves. So when I want to deviate from my grade-A espresso lifestyle for an afternoon and enjoy something silly or sweet, I seek out places where I can be nameless and faceless, and as a result, I really miss out on the community-building experience a high-quality neighborhood coffeeshop offers. And to be honest, that makes me a little blue.

The moral of this story? May I never sneer at another customer for ordering iced tea without ice, or a large decaf skim granita with two Splenda and whipped cream, and may I never be sneered at for one day ordering the same thing someplace else because I happen to want it.