In the Livehealthy series called “My work”, we delve into how people in the UAE deal with their job stress. We do this anonymously so people can be totally honest about their experiences without fear of reprisal. For this piece, we spoke to a 30-year-old barista who works at a coffee shop in Dubai.
You need a lot of self-control in order to not lose your cool in pressure-cooker situations, because they happen all the time, every single day. Coffee-making is a very fast-paced environment. It’s pressured by default. For most, this is a skill that comes naturally, because it’s hard to develop and you can’t teach it in the moment. My worst moment was having an anxiety attack during peak hours. That was terrifying. But I just had to keep going. What made it worse is that being an expat, I don’t have family around to comfort me during these dreadful moments.
Working as a coffee bar manager I am responsible for making sure that every product or drink that lands on the guest’s table is up to our quality and standard. You will always get complaints and returned drinks; you need a lot of patience and a level of peace within you to be able to deal with it.
A full-time barista is a combination of energy, patience and a lot of caffeine. The people that make up the whole coffee chain is what makes my job interesting – that and geeking out on coffee! You see, coffee is not just a drink, it’s a story about people, from the farmers to the customers. It’s a collective experience.
Ten years ago, a barista was just a job – an underrated title or a means to an end. Now, thanks to the efforts of the people in the industry who poured a lot of passion and thought into it and gave it more purpose, it’s seen as a profession.
But, there is still unfair treatment ranging from salary issues to the work environment. Labor exploitation is still very rampant and because a barista job is so in-demand, an employer can get away with offering peanuts and they won’t hesitate to do it. And that adds to the mental struggles of the job sometimes and with being an expat over here.
One of the best parts of the job and what always makes me feel better on a bad day, are the amazing people I meet. Any kind of person you can think of, you’ll meet them as a barista, no question. It brings a lot of variety to the everyday work. With the current situation as well, sometimes the only thing that keeps me going is the positivity from customers and work mates. Despite everything falling apart in so many ways, this has been the biggest help.
As told to Georgie Bradley
Check out: My work, lawyer edition
Georgie Bradley is a British/Greek editor and journalist based in Dubai after being bred in Bahrain. She's been published by The Guardian UK, The Telegraph UK, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post UK, Buro 24/7 and Harper's Bazaar Arabia. Most recently she was the deputy editor of Emirates Woman. You're most likely to find her in the aisle seat.