When you think of being a Mobile Barista you picture yourself in a small town cafe with a bountiful selection of cakes, freshly cooked pastries and customers who demand their coffee to be 100 degrees or they won’t have time to sit and stare at it for 20 minutes. Maybe you picture a busy London cafe going through 20 kilos of speciality coffee a day whilst selling superfood salads at £10 per leaf. Mobile barista experiences all of the stereotypes and more.
Routes Coffee travels all over the UK making coffee in different places every week. The amazing people and places you see make the job far more interesting and unpredictable. The greatest aspects of mobile coffee can immediately become the biggest challenges. The fact that you are usually in a field at a festival or a summer fete or just on the side of the road making tasty brews at a cycling event or marathon brings many variables that are often out of your control.
Being able to adjust to the weather is very important in the mobile coffee hire business. When it’s hot you need a selection of cold drinks and when it’s cold you need a selection of hot drinks. Being practiced in both hot and cold coffees is essential. When the sun comes out, get yourself a handful of ice cubes (don’t actually use your hands, that’s unhygienic), chuck them in peoples coffee (place them gently) and they will be sure to bring all their mates back for more (if they have mates).
Being outdoors is amazing 90% of the time, but sometimes it’s proper shit. Making coffee in heavy winds is extremely difficult, add some rain into the mix and you’ve got yourself a peach of a challenge. On top of this, pouring latte art in the wind is extremely challenging (except for Jim, he’s a master). Even the sun causes problems, especially during the festival season, sleeping in a tent all summer means waking up a hot, sweaty, hung-over mess (always shower before work or that too is unhygienic). A good tent, airbed and sleeping bag are essential.
Every weekend there’s hundreds or even thousands of new people to meet and supply with coffee. Engaging with customers brings them back not just the next day, but the next year as well. Don’t be a dick. Frequent festivalgoers will recognise the signage of your mobile set up at other festivals and any other sort of event, its crazy how many people you bump into every year.
The easiest and most common set up is a 3×3 gazebo with a mobile barista bar along the front and a wooden frontage displaying what you sell and who you are. Serving from a converted vehicle is another common type of coffee cart and can save heaps of time and stress setting up an entire structure from scratch. Set up and pack down can take a long time and involve some heavy lifting, I personally recommend taking a long trip to the toilet to avoid most of the lifting process. Return and admire the fine job your colleagues have done.
The coffee set up should be mostly familiar, espresso machine, grinder, and water boiler. The main difference from a normal cafe is you have to refill the water. Usually, water is provided via a standpipe at festivals and large events, hopefully, close to you. Occasionally this is not the case and you will be carrying 25lr water containers half a mile across a field because Will and Jim forgot to bring a trolley. This is another moment you may need to pretend you’re busy or just delegate the job to another member of staff.
To conclude, becoming a mobile barista is a lot of fun, but also a lot of hard work. Being able to adapt to any situation is the key to success in this industry. Best of luck baristas.
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