Yuri the coffee master
Founded in Seattle, Washington in 1971 and operating more than 24,000 stores in 70 countries to date, Starbucks has arguably become the most popular coffeehouse in the world. In Japan alone, it is estimated that there are about 1,300 outlets across the country.
If you have been to Starbucks, you might have noticed that baristas either wear a green or black apron at work. It turns out that only one in 10 baristas at Starbucks have the privilege to wear the black one due to the difficult written and taste tests that they have to take and pass. Despite the challenges, Yuri Nishino from the School of Political Science and Economics has passed the tests and earned the symbol of the coffee master at Starbucks, the black apron.
Why work at Starbucks?
Yuri would often go to Starbucks and have a drink before tests and examinations to recharge herself. Before returning to Japan to pursue an undergraduate degree at Waseda University, she was living abroad in Singapore. Yuri recalls that the Starbucks baristas in Singapore were very friendly to customers yet professional at the same time, and had had an admiration for them since high school. When she started school at Waseda University, her admiration for Starbucks baristas made her decide to work part time in Starbucks, with the hope that she could make her customers’ day like how the baristas had made hers in Singapore.
Working as a barista in Starbucks
There many things one needs to remember as a Starbucks barista. It goes without saying that each time a new menu item is added to the store, the name of the item, its ingredients and way of preparation are put on to the long list of items which a barista has to remember. Even so, Yuri enjoys working at Starbucks, speaking from experience that Starbucks in Japan treats everyone equally. Regardless if you are a full-timer, part-timer or student, every employee is given open and impartial opportunities. While this may add pressure to non-fulltime baristas, Yuri says it has helped her develop an attitude of wanting to try new things and aiming high in whatever she does.
The path to becoming a full-fledge black apron coffee master
As previously mentioned, about one in 10 baristas would earn the black apron and title of the coffee master. Each candidate will receive thick study materials before taking the written and taste tests. Candidates are basically required to know almost everything about coffee from its culture and areas of production to the names of brewing tools and apparatus, etc. At first, Yuri thought that it was impossible for her to pass the tests. However, with the tremendous help and encouragement from her seniors at workplace, along with sheer hard work, she was able to pass the tests together with her seniors.
Wearing the black apron
When asked about the transformations or changes that have occurred before and after passing the coffee master tests, Yuri said that her knowledge about coffee has drastically improved. Besides receiving recognition, wearing the black apron comes with expectations. Yuri recalls paying more attention to details and how she would carry herself in front of customers after earning the black apron. As the Starbuck outlet she works at is located right beside a famous long-established multinational hotel known for its world class services, Yuri would often have to act in line with the status of her customers. As such, she has to be careful not to be too casual in the way she serves her customers there, unlike other outlets.
Personal life of Yuri
Besides working part-time at Starbucks while pursuing an undergraduate degree, Yuri is also an active club member of the Dance Team Brilliant Pinks student club at Waseda University. The all-female dance club specializes in street dances, and is also an official student club recognized by the University. Right before the Waseda-sai (festival held by Waseda University), she would practice dancing five days a week. As everyone from the dance club is committed to dance practices, Yuri very much enjoys her student life and the company of the club members. When asked about her plans after graduation, Yuri says she wants to work for company that cherishes diversity and individuality. She also hopes to work for one where employees are committed to the same goals and everyone can work together as a team.