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4 things baristas know about knowledge sharing

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Photo of man making coffee using a Chemex pot

It’s hard to think that after living in Seattle for 6 years, I haven’t experienced coffee in every shape and form imaginable. One day, after strolling around the city (and buying one of the most beautiful bouquets EVAH at Pike’s Place Market) I was a little lagging, so the person I was dating at the time and I went to grab a cup at Seattle Coffee Works. Much to my excitement, there was Chemex service available. Yes please!

After taking our order, we were directed to have a seat at the “slow bar” and the barista would be over shortly. I’ve read about Chemex for years and even saw it used on a few cooking shows, but have never experienced it myself and settled in for a great experience.

However, this isn’t a post about coffee – it’s about the barista and the 4 things he taught me about knowledge sharing.

Know your audience

Our barista knew that I was a complete novice to the process and wanted to see the steps in great detail.  The person I was seeing had some experience and wasn’t as interested in the process – he just wanted the finished product. To accommodate us both, he asked some basic questions to get us started and spent the rest of the time with the Chemex in front of me, explaining all of the gritty details while working to get my partner his coffee quickly. It was the same content, tailored to different audiences with the same result – enjoyment of the experience.

Be curious

It’s surprising to see how often people will absorb a process without ever asking how it works.

I’m sure there were a hundred people who sat for a Chemex poured coffee and never thought (or really cared) about how it’s made. They just wanted it done. However, I feel that misses a big part of the magic of sharing what you know – HOW you got to the answer. By asking a simple question about the water, I was able to gain insight to making my own coffee and tea taste better. The twists and turns give you more insight to why you think this way and how you can foster a better connection. I now find, this is not just true for coffee preparation, but for webinars, lectures and even blog postings.

Build a story

I asked for a lighter, fruitier cup of coffee and our barista recommended I try the Bali. For many people that would have been the end of the story. Question/Answer. However, by explaining WHY the cup is fruity and HOW slow drying in a humid climate concentrates the flavor he was able to give me more context and make it easier to remember it for next time.

Enjoy it

It was clear that this was more than just a job; it was a hobby and passion. Our barista not only loved making coffee, but loved sharing what he knew. He gave a “so what, who cares?” for every part of the process and made it accessible without trying to make a sell (in fact, he didn’t sell me anything).

I was not expecting to come out of a coffee shop with a better understanding of how to translate sharing what I know to clients, colleagues and the person who asks “what DO you do?” , but I’m definitely glad I did.

Oh, and yes – the coffee was AMAZING.

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