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WalkerSpeak: Hey, Barista, Bring That Latte Over Here

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coffeeMany of us have found ourselves  in the waiting room of a doctor’s or dentist’s office, forced to listen to daytime television at its loudest. Be it the History Channel or Fox News Channel, it’s just something we have to endure from time to time.

It was because I was entrapped, though, that I heard something that really surprised me. I was trying not to listen to the three celebrities chattering on a morning talk show, when I heard one use the term “barista”, causing the other two women at the table to stare blankly at her.

“What’s a barista?” said one of her co-stars, an actress and comedienne of no small reputation. Another, a longtime national news personality, chimed in that she, too, had no idea what that word meant.

I was amazed. I thought that word would certainly have entered the vernacular by the time Starbucks put up store No. 10,000 in the United States.

For those of you who don’t want to be caught out on a nationally broadcast morning talk show, “barista” is the word we in the U.S. use for the person who brews up your half-and-half skinny latte at the espresso shop. In some cases, the word might be used for someone with special skills at making espresso or cappuccino, as a sommelier’s skills and duties extend beyond those of a wine server.

This word is borrowed from the Italian language, Wikipedia tells us (though we may have already guessed).  It generally refers to someone who works behind a counter serving hot and cold drinks, such as a bartender. In Italian, the word isn’t used specifically for someone who makes and serves coffee. Also, while the word as used in English ends in an “a” it is correct for both for males and females.

Also, remember that a “barrister” has nothing to do with coffee, unless she’s telling her assistant to bring her some. Barrister is another word for attorney.

Starbucks, some numbers

Since we brought up Starbucks, you might wonder if the company has, in fact, 10,000 stores in the U.S.  It has more than 11,000 stores, according to the company website.

From the factsheet at www.starbucks.com, here are some numbers:

  • Starbucks has stores in 50 states, plus the District of Columbia.
  • 7,087 of these stores are operated by the company.
  • 4,081 stores are licensed.
  • 43 countries outside the United States have Starbucks stores.

During 2006, the store had:

  • Provided 4.9 million hours of training for store partners.
  • Donated $36.1 million in cash and products.
  • Volunteered 383,000 hours in communities through a Starbucks volunteer program, Make Your Mark.
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