Miss Woodhouse's Musings

…about life, the universe, and everything. Don't panic!

Change Is In The Air

*peers around the blog*

*taps microphone*

*feedback*

Um, is this thing still on?

So, I know it’s been a while since you all have heard from me. A long while. A VERY LONG while.

In my last post, I talked a lot and vaguely about different paths and which one I should take. Basically, I had a decision to make in April: sign another year’s teaching contract and remain a Shift Supervisor at Starbucks, OR take a leap of faith, stop teaching for now, and pursue an Assistant Manager position with Starbucks. It was a really hard choice to make. I LOVE teaching, love my students, and love being in the academic world. Teaching is so much of my life and passion that the mere idea of just stepping away for a bit was devastating.

When all was said and done though, it became evident that teaching just wasn’t in the cards for next year. You guys have no idea the amount of pain and tears that happened during March and April. Once the decision was made it couldn’t be undone, so I threw myself into the last few months of my teaching career. Back in January the drama teacher had asked me to come alongside her class and help instruct on Shakespeare, since they were doing three parodies of his works. When those plays were finished, I was asked to stay on with drama and help out on the final production. It was a crazy, crazy time of dancing, fighting, and jumping off of cliffs (in a theatrical stage sense!), and I loved every moment of it.

You haven’t lived until you’ve watched a bunch of high school students try to talk over heavy rain on a tin roof.

With production finished, the next big hurdle in life was prepping for final projects and graduation. That took up just about every spare moment that wasn’t already consumed with Starbucks. Crayzhay.

The last day of classes was very sad. My students are awesome though, and they passed around this lovely little journal that anyone at the program could sign. I keep the little leather journal by my bed…such an encouragement! We also hung out in my classroom for most of the morning watching Jane Eyre and talking about Doctor Who. They are such good little Whovians!

It was hard going home that day, but I had a plan. I sat down at the computer, and applied for an Assistant Manager position in the next district over. An opening had come up the week before, and for the first time, it felt right. So, I applied. And interviewed two weeks later. And interviewed again two weeks after that. And three days later, my new District Manager called and offered me the position!!!

Can we all just stop and freak out about this for a moment????

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you, that feels much better.

On July 29th, I start my new position, at my new store, in a new district. It is all exciting, but all nerve-wracking as well. In addition, we also lost our Regional supervisor last month (and I am so sad about that, you all have no idea), so we have a new one taking over this week too! So much change, but I think that it is all for the better.

These past few weeks have felt very productive. I’ve finished a lot of personal development training, helped train our newest barista, and participated in a veritable bevy of coffee and tea tastings. Tea tastings…are a revelation. I cannot wait to see the effect that Teavana has on Starbucks!!! We need some more tea materials in the store, I’m just saying.

Open tea bags…Chai, Zen, and Calm.

So, what else is new? I think that is enough for now. The next 10 days will fly by, I’m sure, in a whirl of book clubs, nursery duty, phantom shifts, food service tests, normal shifts, and otherwise crazy schedules!!!! I am very excited to see where the next chapter of my life leads me.

Here goes everything!

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Four Years In, And A Fresh Start

Today is my fourth Starbucks anniversary! Sometimes (like after this past weekend) it feels like I’ve been doing this job forever. Other times, it feels like I’ve just begun. Either way, it’s been an exciting ride. The best thing is that it’s not like my job is stagnant. I’ve been on my store’s management team for 6 months now, and will be moving up as soon as I finish out this year’s teaching contract. With everything going on in the district and the company right now, I’m very excited to keep on going. 

 

To celebrate my four years with Starbucks, I took a special trip up to see a brand new store that opened up just last week! So, here’s what it looks like:

ImageHow about that shade of yellow??? It is so cheerful; I had to drive through almost whiteout rain to reach the store, but as soon as it came into view it made me smile. So cute! This store is a drive-thru, the window is on the far side. 

 

ImageThis is what you see when you first walk in the store. I like that the merchandise is visible, but not totally up in your face. There are display shelves right by the front door, but they are just the small, two-shelf assembly. 

My favourite part of the store is the right wall, behind where the majority of seating and comfy chairs are located. That wall is covered in large photographs depicting the coffee voyage before it gets to our stores and takes that last journey of 10 feet. Isn’t it pretty?

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The new tables and chairs are very muted, and quite lovely. It’s hard to tell with the lighting, but that wall is a lovely, warm amber. It’s all very inviting, but I also love how light and bright the layout is. 

 

So, that’s to the right, here’s what is to the left!

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Just kidding, there’s a picture of those display cubes/shelves. I love that the bar seating faces out onto the road; nice for those people who wander in on their own. See the condiment bar tucked up in the corner?

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This is genius! It is nice and out of the way, can still have at least two people working on their coffee at the same time, gets plenty of light, but has a place out of the sun where carafes can sit. So perfect!

Can you see the detail on the edge of the wood?

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All of the edges are like that, from the seating bar to the handoff plane. It is a really cool look, believe it or not. Speaking of handoff planes and drinks…

ImageThe registers are to the right, the handoff is on the left. The only downside here, from what I’ve been told, is that the area between the registers and the plane becomes “socializing area,” making a bottleneck of sorts. That’s a minor flaw, though, that can easily be corrected by barista direction. Oh! See those high top tables??? I absolutely love them. They have the coolest seats! 

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On a geeky barista note, the storage here is totes adorbs. Do you see how cool these cabinets are???

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I see spaces for tags on each door, and…I think…it looks like the center of each door is a chalkboard! Oh, the possibilities. Seriously, I want to get my chalkboard markers on those. So much potential for fun. 

 

There you have it. We’ve got a few more stores opening and making major changes in the next few months, so stay tuned for more pictures!

 

 

 

 

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Coffee and Pie

It is the simplest combination known to 1950’s TV programming: a cup of coffee and a slice of pie. Now, you can go to your local Starbucks and experience that same, wonderful joy. So what’s new at Starbucks? Here we go….

First off, Tribute is back! For those of you who don’t remember the debut of this coffee last year (for our 40th anniversary), it is the history of Starbucks’ coffee in one convenient bag. There is coffee from every growing area, and every processing method. The ever amazing sun-dried Ethiopian, perfect aged Sumatra, rare Papua New Guinea, and assorted Columbian coffees round out this awesome post-roast blend. Remember, when you buy Tribute you are not just buying a pound of coffee, you are buying a piece of a story.

Tribute is mellow and bold, with cherry notes (and I taste some floral in there too, but I’m odd like that.)

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What goes perfectly with a cherry-noted coffee? Why, cherry pie, of course! We’ve added 4 new petites: cherry pie, apple pie, a brown sugar and walnut tart, and a chocolate hazelnut tart. (Tart is the wrong word, but I can’t think of the correct one.) They are yummy! And pretty filling too.

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Okay! Let’s move on to some of our new merchandise! First up, how cute are these cups???

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The new French Press is also totally adorable.

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The tumbler matches it perfectly too!

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We also have these adorable bags. They aren’t exactly *new*, they are cute nonetheless.

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Finally, some big news! At long last, Starbucks is selling their chai concentrate for the first time in my memory. The best part is that it is only $4.95, which makes it super affordable. And look how awesome the carton is!

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I didn’t get a chance to take pictures of our new waterbottles and our new number mugs, so you’ll have to go into your local Starbucks to check them out. Also, we have chocolate covered cherries and triple chocolate espresso beans! Don’t forget that Tribute comes in VIA as well as whole bean.

Last thing! Starting tomorrow through the 14th if you come in before 11 am and buy an espresso-based drink, you can bring that receipt back in after 2 pm and get another espresso-based drink for 1/2 off! It’s a cool benefit if you already come in twice a day. If you don’t usually come in more than once a day, then consider this your invitation to do so! Make sure to try out a vanilla latte, or my personal favourite: the caramel macchiato. Both are delicious, as are our range of other lattes, mochas, and macchiatos.

And that, my friends, is that. Go drink some coffee!

EDIT: I almost forgot! I have a new Starbucks blog all about my new journey at work. Check it out here!

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Green Beans

Today’s Friday Frame Up is actually a sneak  peek to a Starbucks post I’m working on! This is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a local Starbucks: bins with a visual representation of beans at every point in the roasting process.

My only regret is that the merchandise was blocking the last panel, so it isn’t in the picture. Overall though, it is still a pretty cool thing to see at the counter.

Have a happy Friday, and I’ll see you all soon.

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Blonde, Bold, and Beautiful

Today, Starbucks is launching a new line of coffees! They are a lighter roast then any of our current lineup, and we affectionately call them our “blonde” coffees. Our usual core lineup is undergoing a repackaging and renaming phase as well; we now use the terms “medium” and “dark” to replace bold and extra bold.

So! The two new blonde coffees are Willow (yes, yes, go ahead and talk about whipping your hair back and forth) and Veranda, with Willow also being offered in decaf. Willow is a multi region blend with a bright clean finish, and Veranda is for you fans of Latin American coffees with a mellow and soft body. Not only do these have a lighter taste, but they also have a slightly higher caffeine content, so more pickup in your cup!

Medium still hosts our core classics: House, Pike Place, Breakfast Blend, Guatemala Antigua, Organic Yukon, Kenya, as well as our Iced Coffee blend.

Dark holds many of my favourites: Gold Coast (now Morning Joe), Komodo Dragon, Espresso, Italian, French, Verona, and the best one of all, Sumatra.

For you reserve and seasonal coffee fans, fear not! They will still make their way to our shelves at their appointed time. The best part about all this? (I mean, besides offering a new line of coffee that people are going to love.) We got new coffee passports! They are called coffee tasting guides, and I can’t stop reading mine.

 

So, that’s about all for now. Make sure to stop by your local Starbucks this weekend for our special “Find the Roast You Love the Most!” event! We’ll help you decide if Blonde, Medium, or Dark is the right roast for you…or maybe you’ll like them all! Who knows, so go in and find out!

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How One Pound of Coffee Made A Lot of People Happy

One little green bag. It sits on the shelf at my Starbucks, hardly ever touched.

The flashier bags get all the attention: Sumatra, Komodo Dragon, Cafe Verona, Espresso Roast, and Pike Place all come and go. It sits there…quietly, patiently.

Until the other day. Until a poor, frazzled man came in and asked me if we had any organic coffee. You could almost see that little green bag puff itself up. I lead the man over to the wall, and pull it off the shelf: Organic Shade Grown Mexico. The relief on the man’s face is evident. His sister-in-law is coming into town, and EVERYTHING must be organic. Coffee included.

So, I work on getting him a half pound (he didn’t need anymore than that…I got the feeling we weren’t trying to get the sis-in-law to move in!), ground it for him (yes, I do know that doing so means it is no longer Certified Organic, but the man needed help), bagged it up, and he was set to go. I was even able to give him the name of a local organic market in case the sis-in-law made any other odd organic demands. You can find *everything* organic at Trader Joe’s.

(I know two people who are dying with laughter right now. Shall we continue on?)

A few minutes later, E comes in. Now, I love seeing this guy come in for three reasons. One, he’s always pleasant. Two, he sometimes sits and hangs out with his eReader, which is always cool. But the third reason is the best: he loves good, bold coffee. It’s always exciting when you meet a customer who really cares about the coffee, who can appreciate the difference between an earthy Sumatra and a brightly acidic Gazebo. There’s one other customer who is the same, he actually always orders a French Press of something. The other night he and I had a discussion about the different coffees that come to the forefront in the various bags of Tribute Blend. With four different regions in there, sometimes you taste the Sumatra, sometimes the Papua New Guinea, etc.

But I digress.

E comes in, and says he wants to try something different: he wants a Chai Latte with no pumps and 1/3 milk. My shift stood there looking confused, until I pieced together that he wanted a Chai Tea misto. Phew!

Before I started on his drink, I looked at him and asked “Are you sure? I have some Organic Shade-Grown Mexico.”

His face lit up! “Why did you even let me order? You should have just said ‘E, don’t even bother, I know what you want!'” With that, E, and my shift, and I cracked up. So, I made E a venti coffee, and I made a short so that I could fill out my new coffee passport.

You know what? That’s really, really good coffee. And at least 7 people were made very happy…all because of one little green bag of beans.

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A Starbucks Story

It was the best of closes, it was the worst of closes…actually it was tonight’s close!

We were having a good night. My coworkers were wild and crazy, and there were lots of hugs, jokes, pranks, insults, and songs.

…Justin Bieber songs, but no night is *perfect*.

As much as we hated to do so, shift and I sent our dear singing precloser home a little early to save labour. We were good, we were ahead of the game. We were set to close at 9:30, and get out well before 10.

Then, 9:15 happened. A very, very nice man walked into the store and informed us that he was turning off the water.

Say WHAT?????

I’ve never seen that look of blank shock on my shift’s face before. She just stood there, the Daily Coverage Report about to slide out of her hands. It was…disturbing. So, I jumped in to the situation, chatted with the guy (who was WONDERFULLY understanding), and we negotiated a 10 pm water shut off.

Whew. Disaster averted.

The only problem is that Mr. Water Man wasn’t hopeful that we would have water for open tomorrow. Or for the morning rush. Or, like, until 10-11 am tomorrow morning.

Let’s make a list of why we need water:

Espresso shots

Coffee brewing

Rinsing pitchers

Washing dishes

Washing hands

Restrooms

…just to name a few things.

Oh, and my manager is the opening shift.

So I focus in on dishes. The sooner I could get done, the sooner he could get to work, the sooner we could have water back. Scrub, swish, stack, sanitize, shelve!

It’s now 9:28. Almost there…so close….

…and a guy comes in. Asks if we are open. We say “for a few more minutes” and he says “good, I have a couple of drinks.”

He then proceeds to order:

4 grande caramel frappuccinos

3 grande vanilla lattes

2 strawberries and cream frappuccinos

1 iced grande caramel macchiato

We are down to one espresso machine so I could ensure both got rinse cycles before the drought. We only have out one blender pitcher because we were cleaning the others (see re: coming drought). Oh, and because he is still there, fussing over his order, other orders came in behind him. Somehow, shift and I crank these drinks out in record time, only closing a few minutes after our “shut door” time.

But now we are now *so* behind the power curve.

Ugh.

Scramble…scramble…scramble….

But there is no recovery. We clock out 10 minutes late, chewing up all the labour we saved earlier by sending Bieber Boy home.

*sigh*

So much promise…so much potential….

Chocolate ice cream? Don’t mind if I do!

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Thanks, Dr. Oz….

He is one of those customers. You all know the type- the ones who make you dread coming on shift. The ones who have complicated orders, make unreasonable demands, berate you as you do your job the best you can, put you through the wringer, and then never tip. We have several of those, but one really takes the cake.

He gets a pound of coffee- a specific blend of decaf Sumatra and regular Sumatra. Always. Okay, fine- half-caf, no problem.

In fact, the coffee is the least of the issue.

If you don’t start scooping it before he even walks in the door, he acts as though you are too dense to draw breath. It doesn’t matter if you stand there and recite the order with him- if it’s not ready when he gets to the register, he has to tell you the entire order. EM-PHA-TI-CAL-LY.

He then watches you like a hawk as you walk to the wall, pull the coffee bags (he never brings the coffee to the register himself), and go behind the counter, scoop, measure, weigh, grind, and bag. Then, he…well, wait a moment.

There’s something you all should understand. I’m a closer- I rarely work before 3 pm. When I deal with this customer, it’s at night- like, it’s dark out night. Now, every store has closers like me, and openers who don’t work past noon. Our store has a highly popular opener- he almost never works much past 11 or 12. NEVER at night. Hasn’t for many, many years. Comprende? Bien.

He (the customer) comes in at night. Every night, he asks if this one opener is working. Becomes very upset when he is told that they are not there. Despite our explaining that his favourite barista only works in the mornings, he still comes in late at night for his coffee. Go figure. Apparently, this opener is the “only person” who can get the half-caf right, is the “best employee ever,” and without them working at our location “we wouldn’t stand a chance of staying in business because no one else can do the job as well.”

The first time we dealt with this guy at night, it was me, a shift, and my manager. We all stood there, slightly in shock. The manager tried to laugh it off with the customer… “Yeah, that employee is pretty popular.”

“NO. You all would go under without him.” (EM-PHA-TI-CAL-LY, remember?)

*blink* O-kayyyyy then.

He left at last, his coffee in hand. We stood there, silently looking at each other. Wordlessly, the shift reached over and pulled off three pieces of receipt tape. Scribbling something on each of them, she quietly pinned them to the inside of our green aprons with paper clips. I glanced at what mine said.

Chopped Liver

The three of us burst out laughing. “That’s so we don’t forget what we are without the morning crew.” my shift declared.

This customer has made us feel the same way every visit since that night two years ago. We treat him nicely, but there is still a tenseness to the transaction.

And then, a miracle. They came in the other night, and I immediately started scrambling for the coffee wall to pull the pounds I needed, calling to him as I ran “half-caf, right?”

“No, just regular.”

I swear, I stopped dead in the middle of the café. The shift behind the counter halted too. No? NO? NO!?!?!??!?!

“No,” he continued on. “I was listening to Dr. Oz, and he said that the process used to decaffeinate coffee is worse for you than the extra bit of caffeine. So, it’s just a pound of regular coffee now.”

Do you know how much FASTER his order goes without the measuring and scooping? Without having to assure him that yes, it was the right amount of caf and decaf? Oh, bliss. This is a change we like.

Thank you, Dr. Oz.

 

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Coffee!

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Doing Shots

There’s very little in life that I love doing more than drinking shots. Espresso shots, that is. My coworkers are almost used to my espresso habits; they only blink a few times when I order my number of shots. Night crew likes to give me a hard time about my espresso habits, but at least I’ve trained the morning crew to understand that without shots I am worthless. When I was working mornings on a more regular basis, the shift would start pulling a quad shot the moment I walked in the door. Even last week- my first morning shift in months- he barely blinked when in the middle of blackout I turned and asked him for a couple of shots whenever he had a second. Moments later, there was a short cup full of espresso sitting by my register. Regulation? No. Did I stop dropping every blessed thing I touched? Oh yes. There is method in my espresso madness.

I’m so used to ordering in a place that understands my need to consume a week’s worth of caffeine in a few sips that I find ordering in other restaurants highly amusing. Like a few months ago. I don’t remember where I was- Panera, Books-a-Million, or some place like that. I had already had a lot of milky drinks earlier that day on shift, so I just ordered a double espresso. The very nice lady behind the counter patronisingly explained to me that “espresso” was a tiny amount of very intense coffee, not a “proper drink.” The look of shock on her face when I simply grinned and said “Yep- that’s what I’m looking for” was priceless. Well, not really. It cost me $1.79, but man was it worth it!

A few weeks ago I went out to see a play with my mum and one of her friends (there’s a write-up coming on that play, just so you know. It was wonderful!). I got a triple tall caramel macchiato before the performance, but by dinner afterwards the caffeine buzz had more than worn off and I was having a hard time not dropping into a carb-induced slumber. (There are way too many places to get great bread around here- that’s all I’m saying.) So, while we poured over the dessert menu, I asked our waiter for a solo espresso to get me through the remainder of the meal. Surprisingly, he didn’t register the shock I’m used to seeing. Maybe he was just well-trained, maybe he saw how exhausted I was, or maybe he’s a closet espresso-addict too. Whatever the case, he brought me my espresso with no to-do. It was my mum’s friend that was thrown for a loop by the cute little chunky demitasse in which our waiter delivered my shot to me. It was a great opportunity to talk about espresso, what it is, what makes  it different from coffee, and why you *really* don’t want to order a regularly-sized coffee cup full of espresso shots.

The most recent incident, and the one that made me sit back and muse over my espresso encounters happened last Friday night. We were having an English Club meeting at a cute little cafe, and I was tired. Exhausted. Worn out. Brain dead. I was the designated driver; I needed caffeine. This particular place used to have a honey latte that was amazing, but I soon discovered that it was no longer on the menu. Not feeling up to anything else, I approached the register to order. Nice young guy- a little baffled by our group, but then again we are an unusual assortment of characters. I asked him if they could do a triple espresso, even though they only listed solo and doubles. He looked at me with a slightly startled expression, but said that he could definitely do it. I said, “Okay, good, let’s make it a quad then.” He stopped ringing. He looked at me. The next words out of  his mouth were “I used to work in a coffee bar, and we were all like that. Couldn’t get enough coffee.” YES! A kindred spirit! I responded with “Yeah, I work at Starbucks.” He nodded, rang up the drink, and that was that. No weird looks, no patronising, no incredulity, just pure understanding. And four shots of espresso.

Bliss.

 

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