Almost anyone can make a coffee, but not everyone can truly know your coffee, contemplate your cup and talk about it like it’s your second language, or in this case a guy who speaks as if it’s his first.
Meet Boston Parker – coffee genius at Gertrude and Alice Bookstore in Bondi. Boston might fit your usual barista stereotype; neck tattoos, b-ball singlets, perpetual smile and laid back attitude. But unbeknownst to some, he also spends his time mastering his photography, spending half his pay on books and helping elderly women onto the bus. Not to mention, he is so incredibly sweet that he could put a candy factory out of business.
In his early years, Boston used to make money by stealing flowers and selling it back to his neighbours, before realising it was a crime and he might have to get a real job. When he was seventeen he admired his barista girlfriend who could do pretty little patterns on her coffee, and wanted to be just as cool. After a few years of being an amateur barista, Boston felt it was time for his big break.
After spending time in New York, Boston naturally landed in the coffee capital of Melbourne. Here he transitioned from coffee information person, to being thrown on the machine and before you know it he was introducing fancy coffee techniques and part-owning a cafe. But he also learnt about people and how coffee culture can shape cities differently.
So, how did this rough looking, loveable guy navigate his way through the most infamous snobby coffee capital in the world only to come out the other side unscathed and basking in the sunny, salty confines of Bondi beach.
Learn or burn
The Melbourne coffee landscape is rife with competition. Boston quickly learnt if you want to make it up there with the big players – you need to study coffee like it’s a university degree.
“There’s a celebrity barista – a couple of people that are at the top end of Melbourne – they can go into any other café in Melbourne and be recognisable. It sounds silly and ridiculous now that I am no longer there but coffee making is seen differently here than it is in Melbourne. It’s a career – you could definitely be a barista your entire life. You can in Sydney as well but it’s definitely more respected in Melbourne. It’s actually a job and in Melbourne nobody would say ‘you’re just a barista’.”
He says even if people are just at uni and being a barista is just a side job, they still strive to be the next level.
Music, coffee, fun
So, what brought him to Sydney then? Asking the Universe to decide whether he should study photography in Melbourne or Sydney. But, there was also a part of him that wanted to be closer to his mate and so he put out the good vibes and intentions to make that happen. What a stand-up sort of guy.
“When I come to work even though I’m ‘working’ I really do think of it as a mental break I get to make coffee which I love doing, I get to talk to customers and it’s fun hearing about their day and what they’ve been doing or about their kids or what they’re studying. Then I hang out with workmates and that’s obviously the best part. I love it – I get to listen to music, make coffees. It’s fun.”
First impressions kind of count
Even though I knew this guy was nice as pie, I had to ask if his tattoos affect his rapport with people considering he told me he used to get followed by security guards in Coles.
“I think people do get a bit shocked when they interact with me after first impressions and people often say ‘oh you’re not who I thought you were when I first met you’.”
“I find with customers that come in a lot they’re actually really interested in me, not trying to sound self-obsessed or anything but I find it really unusual. It’s flipped and they want to know more about me which I get a bit funny about because it’s unusual people wanting to know about me. But it’s interesting and different. I guess I don’t like talking about myself but I think it prompts you to talk about yourself and it’s good.”
Judge a cover by its book
Landing in one of the few coffee bookstores in Sydney was meant to be for Boston – considering it holds some of the finest photography books. G&A is a dainty space where you can sip the finest chai tea latte’s and can read a book off the shelf without being expected to buy it – but trust me the temptation is always there. Whilst there’s seating spaces amongst the bookshelves, people share common respect that you might have to hover on top of each other to find what you’re looking for.
But what really attracts Boston to G&A is noticing the types of books that people buy and the bewilderment when it’s something far from what he expected. Such as yummy mummy’s who are interested in tasteful vintage pornography magazines for their husbands.
So whilst he might judge you by your books cover, don’t be alarmed – he just wants to get acquainted.
“I’ll often have a quick flick through the book before people purchase it because I’m often interested in knowing why they want this certain book or what they’re interested in. Some people pick really obscure books and I go ‘What is it about this book that you like?'”
Whether it’s to ask him about his insane knowledge of coffee, find out the random stories behind his tats or buy a weird book and see what he has to say, be sure that Boston will always have your Chai waiting and is ready to chat all about it.
All Imagery – Daryl Kong