Most people say if your job doesn’t get you up in the morning, then find something that will. Even if this means ignoring our parents or grandparents who told us to do what we’re good at, bring home the bacon and hustle hard. To them we might look like careless idiots who will never have a decent retirement fund, but I’ll take the risk any day to be damn happy right now and have #noregrets.
One person that sure as hell knows what it’s like to flip a career on its head is Karina Smith. Karina is a sweet and savvy Barista from Pablo & Rusty’s who likes to knit as a winter sport.
She jumped from studying a degree in theology, to an apprentice pastry chef, to throwing the hat in and becoming a barista two years ago. She loves her job so much that when she fractured her heel, she had serious withdrawals and would visit P&R’s and sit in the corner anxiously wanting to help out. Some might say obsessive, some crazy, but I call it someone who simply loves what they do.
P&R’s is an industrial style coffee hub on Castlereagh Street, nestled in a nook amongst the bossy buildings including ANZ and Bauer Media. Decked out with high ceilings and fancy lightbulbs, I could easily see why it’s a popular place for city slickers to flip open their laptop or bitch about office gossip.
“It’s funny I tell my customers I basically have a fake job let’s be honest. I get to talk to people all day, drink as much coffee as I want, I get to hang out in a cafe all day and the chefs give me amazing food – what is real about that job at all?”
Whilst facing corporate folks might be a little nerve wracking for some, Karina has nailed her smooth talk and her passion for coffee genuinely intrigues people. Who wouldn’t love a girl that puts all her energy into getting you high off caffeine and giving you copious amounts of free shit. Yep she did exactly that for me. Before you know it I had downed a macadamia cappuccino, a nitrogen draught coffee which looked like a pint of beer, and a glass of house kombucha. It was probably at that moment I also realised why I fricken love my job too.
All about that buzz
So why did Karina give up lemon tarts and fancy quiches for getting dirty behind a coffee machine? Despite being an introvert for most of her life, Karina says the straw that broke the camel’s back was the social aspect of coffee, the challenge, and being able to meet new people and showing them new stuff.
“I still like the idea of doing pastry and baking but I think it’s too solitary whereas coffee there’s always something to learn and I find that mentally stimulating plus you get to drink as much coffee as you want. Legitimately, I would not get up at 5am every morning for every other job that did not let me have an amazing coffee in the morning I would just be like ‘no’ why, it’s just silly.”
Making coffee is a real job, jerks
I asked Karina how she explains this to people that asks what she does for a living.
“It’s kind of funny when you go to parties and people ask what you do and you’re like ‘oh I make coffee’ and then they’re confused like ‘what’s a barista?’ and I’m like it’s not a lawyer that’s a barrister – but very close. I’m not a barrister, don’t ask me for legal advice. So, they look at me stupidly and they’re like ‘oh you make coffee – that’s nice, is that a nice job?’ and I’m like yeah just because I make coffee doesn’t mean I’m stupid or I have no brain. I enjoy it – I like hospitality, I like the industry, I like the people. I get paid for what I do – that’s a job right?”
Karina credits her short but exemplary coffee career so far on entering competitions.I asked her what these competitions were like or if they involved any sabotaging each other’s coffee, but fortunately not.
“Competitions I find focus it for me and I have a deadline to work to so that pushes me to have to learn things and get good at things. I like the challenge of having to compete in a competition. It’s nice when you go out and hang out with people that are also competing and finding out what they’re doing and what their techniques are, the journey they’ve been on and learning from them. I think the specialty coffee community is very inclusive.”
In the zone
Some might think it’s the fancy interiors and menus that are raising the standards of the hospitality industry, but it’s the people. The ones who are refining their craft, taking their shit seriously and making something out of it. Karina says it’s a challenge pumping out quantity and maintaining quality, but she likes the challenge.
“I think that’s the other thing I like about being a barista – some days can be chilled and really relaxed like Monday/Tuesday but then we hit Wednesday Thursday Friday and it’s just non-stop and you have customers that have come in for their second coffee and I have not moved from milk. You’re constantly pushing at an increasing speed. It’s fun and exciting when you’re in the zone. It’s like a puzzle, it’s fascinating.”
Some of you might just look at Karina as the chick who makes your coffee, but what you might not realise is that she’s not just the girl making your coffee, she’s not just a pit stop in your morning commute. She actually cares about who you are, what you order, whether you like to have a chat. If you come in enough she’ll even give you a cool coffee name such as French Press Alex or Dirty Chai Guy. So please people remember, baristas are not nobodies, their jobs are just as essential to your day as everything else. Treat them with accordingly. After all, you wouldn’t want to get a bad name for yourself, would you?
Head down to Pablo and Rusty’s on Castlereagh St to meet Karina for yourself.
All images Daryl Kong