A Boss Barista Primer
How to navigate this newsletter, plus a selection of our most popular articles
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Boss Barista is a newsletter about workplace equity and employee empowerment, primarily within the service industry. If you want to ask for a raise at work, if you feel like your employer is doing something sketchy, if you’re just effin frustrated with every dude who walks into your cafe/restaurant/bar and says, “I think I can open a spot like this—how hard can it be?” then this is the place for you.
Boss Barista started as a coffee-industry-focused podcast five years ago, in 2017 (our birthday is coming up on February 1!). At the time, the only podcasts about coffee felt repetitive—I remember seeing the same guests on almost every show—so I naively started recording conversations with people I found interesting, who weren’t getting that same level of attention or recognition.
In 2019, I started this companion newsletter as a place to write about issues of workplace equity, and began to expand my scope beyond coffee into the service industry at large. I didn’t have a regular publishing cadence in those days, and took long breaks between posts as I tried to figure out what this newsletter meant to me.
Boss Barista was revamped and relaunched in early 2021, and this newsletter is now also the main platform for the podcast—you can find full transcripts of each episode here, as well as weekly articles, and we’re working on transcribing our back catalog. The structure of the newsletter has changed over time, but here’s what you can (loosely) expect:
We release new episodes of the podcast every other Tuesday. The podcast is an interview-style show where I invite a guest from the coffee world or service industry to talk about a particular issue. Episodes are usually 40-50 minutes long, and are available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or through Substack with an accompanying transcript.
We release an article every Thursday. On weeks when we release a podcast episode, the article is usually short and engages directly with topics covered in the interview. On weeks when there’s no podcast, it’s sometimes longer and about a bigger idea within the coffee and service industry.
If you’ve never read Boss Barista before, or listened to the podcast, I’d advise starting with some of our greatest hits.
Here are some of our most popular articles:
Hi, I’m Ashley, And I’m Unemployable — This was the very first article I wrote for the newsletter. After years of starting every new job with stars in my eyes—only to be wildly upset when a leader let me down, or when the role turned out to be different than I’d expected—my friend gave me the weirdest and most accurate compliment I’d ever received. If you’ve ever felt like you’ve given a job 110% only to be let down, please read this article.
We Are Not A Family — Employers use the word “family” to describe their workplaces—here’s why this word is manipulative and one-sided.
“You Should Open a Coffee Shop” — For every shitty dude who thinks opening a coffee shop is easy-peasy, here are all the reason the opposite is true, and why doing so requires real care and intention.
Don’t Trust Your Boss — Even if they have the best intentions, bosses will let you down. This is a little ditty on how to combat Bad Boss Behavior™.
Loyalty Isn’t Real — Spoiler alert: It’s fake. Here’s why expecting loyalty at work is the wrong approach.
If you’d like to see more, here’s a list of our top-rated articles.
Here are some of our most popular interviews:
Karla Boza is a coffee producer in El Salvador. Her family was led to believe that the coffee they produced was subpar until a coffee conference in 2017 changed everything—and they realized they had been misled by an importer.
There are two versions of Nigel Price, founder of Drip Coffee Makers in New York. One before coffee, and one after.
What does freshness mean when it comes to coffee? Portland-based roaster Baylee Engberg challenges our assumptions and biases about needing coffee to be fresh.
Vietnam is the second-largest producer of coffee in the world. And yet, most specialty shops don’t carry coffee from that origin. Why? Sahra Nguyen of Nguyen Coffee Supply tells us how an entire country has been largely ignored.
Thank you for taking the time to read and explore this newsletter. I’m delighted you’re here—and ready to raise hell.