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noun [countable]

a person serving in a coffee bar, who is professionally trained in making different kinds of espresso coffeee

'In a warehouse choked with enough eau de caffeine to make a slumbering panda leap up and tap dance, two dozen of this region's finest baristas – aka those hip folks manning your local coffee bar – are grinding, frothing and plotting their way toward nothing less than global supremacy.'

USA Today 19th February 2003

The term barista is gaining increasing recognition in English, and it's already recorded in the Macmillan English Dictionary and the latest edition of the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. The recognition of this new term is largely due to the popularity of coffee bars like Starbucks, whose presence, established in Europe and America for some time, has also exploded across Britain in the last two or three years. Starbucks also registered Barista as a brand name of espresso coffee makers in 1997.

there are many for whom this new job title is to be taken very seriously, as demonstrated by the World Barista Championship

Though technically referring to someone who has had professional training in coffee preparation, the term is often simply used to describe someone who excels at espresso making. There are many for whom this new job title is to be taken very seriously, considering this a definite skill, as demonstrated by the World Barista Championship which took place in Boston, USA in April 2003.

The fact that coffee has become more fashionable in Britain has also promoted more general recognition of coffee terminology, so that many British high street stores and supermarkets are now serving coffee options such as americano, latte, and mocha. These terms are Italian of course, but across the Atlantic the world of coffee terminology has been augmented with terms based on English. Some notable examples are a no fun or a harmless, which is a decaffeinated latte, a shot in the dark, referring to a regular coffee with a shot of espresso in it, and a skinny, describing a latte made with skimmed milk. The adoption of this new coffee lexicon might well have been accelerated by the frequent coffee bar scenes in the American comedy series Friends and Frasier, which have been hugely successful on both sides of the Atlantic.

Background – barista

The word barista has developed from the same word in Italian, the gender-neutral term for 'barman'. There is evidence on the web for an alternative spelling barrista, although this accounts for less than 10% of occurrences. The usual plural is baristas, but in recognition of the Italian origin of barista, baristi is sometimes used, particularly by specialists in the coffee business.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 12th September 2003.

Open Dictionary

Dunning-Kruger effect

the phenomenon by which an incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence

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