Steamed Up

Steamed Up
Article by Lisa Knisely, appeared in issue Food; published in 2013; filed under Consumer culture.
The slow-roasted sexism of specialty coffee.

If you’re like many Americans of late, you’re steering clear of large chain coffee shops in favor of smaller, independent spots where the barista can tell you the names of both the farm your coffee beans came from and the person who roasted them. As opposed to mass-production chain and retail coffee, “specialty coffee” is devoted to giving consumers a high-quality coffee “experience.”

Specialty-coffee folk pay attention to coffee at all levels: bean varietals and soils, correct roasting, flavor profiles and aromas, acidity, espresso dosage, and flawless service and presentation. In other words, they’re coffee snobs.This niche market, unheard of before 1974, now makes up almost 50 percent of the “value share” of the approximately $30 billion U.S. coffee industry each year. The largest professional trade organization in coffee, the Specialty Coffee Association of America, has been influential in developing baristas into professionals within the service industry. While the coffee retail industry used to be more like so-called pink-collar fields such as nursing and teaching, efforts to make espresso slinging more professional have led to a masculinization of the workforce. That is, the more a job is thought of as “skilled,” the more social prestige is associated with it, the higher the wage, and the harder it is for women to get, keep, and advance in the field. Whether in terms of wages, visibility, career advancement, or coffee competitions, female baristas lag behind their male counterparts in this burgeoning professional service field.

As one female rep from the Peet’s Workers Group in Chicago told me, “Before the coffee culture started growing, it was more likely that a shop was going to be predominantly women. The high customer service, physicality, and skill while barely making minimum wage made this job, like being a waitress, a job you took because you needed to.... Now, however, it seems like so many independent shops offer more than minimum wage and have far more men than they did before. Now that the job has become ‘skilled,’ be it in the roasting or latte art, it has become a whole different industry.” But at corporate chains, she added, baristas are often “still viewed by some as unskilled workers.”

Despite the relatively feminine face of service work in the United States, women baristas are now suffering from some of the same setbacks women chefs have encountered for several decades. As sociologists Deborah Harris and Patti Giuffre wrote in a 2011 post at The Feminist Kitchen, female chefs struggle not only with difficult working hours incompatible with having children, but also with the “macho environment” of professional kitchens and the impossible balance of appearing “strong” without being overly “masculine” or “bitchy.” Additionally, Harris and Giuffre maintain that women chefs face sexist critics who overlook their technical skills and professional ambition in the kitchen, representing them as “motivated by the caring act of feeding people, not personal ego or financial success.”

Like these chefs, women baristas struggle to gain recognition for their craft and knowledge of coffee. For most of us grabbing our morning cup of joe on the way to work, competitive barista culture is an alien world. But in late spring each year, baristas gather to compete in the World Barista Championship (WBC), one of the pinnacles of professional achievement in the industry. High-ranking national barista competitors are evaluated by sensory judges, two technical judges, and a head judge in three categories: espresso, cappuccino, and signature (nonalcoholic, espresso-based) drink. They have 15 minutes to make the 12 drinks they serve to the four sensory judges, during which time they put on a kind of coffee-service performance. Competitors carefully select music for their routine and frequently dress up—vests, ties, hats, and suspenders are common attire at the competitions.

The Specialty Coffee Associations of America and Europe have been jointly hosting the WBC since 2000; out of 14 international competitors who have taken home the title, not one has been a woman. The winner of this May’s competition in Melbourne was male, as were the baristas taking second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth. Out of more than 50 international competitors, only seven were women, all from Latin America, Africa, or Eastern Europe. Five of the six finalists were Caucasian men from Western countries. Though barista competitions are ostensibly designed to test the technical competence and expertise of competitors, the judges’ perceptions of these qualities clearly dovetail with expectations about gendered performance, even as these expectations intersect with the competitors’ nationality and ethnicity.

 

Six nattily dressed white men hold up trophies at the 2013 US Barista Championships

The 2013 US Barista Championship Finalists

Women competing in the United States Barista Championship have fared slightly better than those at the WBC; four women have won the national title. (Heather Perry won twice.) All in all, however, the “professional” (and famous) face of coffee is still largely a male one.

Although we no longer think of coffee shops as masculine places, coffeehouses were once explicitly male-only spaces. In her 2007 article in the journal Food, Culture, and Society, Julie Reitz discusses the gradual transition of brewed coffee from public coffeehouses to the feminine domestic space of the home. However, Reitz maintains that the masculinity of the public coffeehouse hasn’t entirely transformed. Espresso is still coded as a strong, manly drink, in part because it is still a drink made and consumed largely in the “masculine” public sphere.

Reitz notes that espresso beverages served with milk are feminized; the more milk, the more feminine. It is not uncommon to hear specialty baristas of all genders mocking people who drink a l6-ounce latte or a decaf mocha, as these drinks are implicitly understood to be “girly” or “sissy” when compared with the virility of an espresso shot. Further, the image of specialty coffee shops is built on their contrast to corporate-chain coffee shops, spaces associated with mass consumption of oversize, low-quality, “frou-frou” coffee beverages. The specialty coffee shop sets itself apart from this pedestrian, feminized world; in this way, Reitz notes, espresso’s cultural trajectory parallels that of hard liquor—historically served in bars as a masculine beverage reserved for a masculine space.

Compounding the lack of visibility and prestige for female baristas in specialty coffee is the service industry’s differing—and often sexist—expectations for female workers. One woman I spoke with, who has worked in specialty coffee in Atlanta and Portland, Oregon, emphasized the social aspect of discrimination against women baristas, saying, “On shift, male coworkers would engage with male coffee shop regulars in a manner that I found particularly isolating, dominating the space physically and verbally.”

Another barista, who has worked in specialty coffee in Milwaukee, Atlanta, and Olympia, Washington, echoed those sentiments, saying, “I worked at one place...that told me how enthused they were to have me there. They said that the specialty-coffee world needed more women. The problem was they never really let me in. I was never invited to hang out after work. I was the only woman working there, [and] the vibe was always just a boys’ club. The worst [came from] men who were higher up in the specialty-coffee industry. They would come in, I would be on bar as lead barista, and I was treated like the child butting into an adult conversation. I have been in the industry for my entire working life (12 years), and I am still in the same minimum-wage-plus-tips position.”

The cover of Barista Magazine that features three women brewing coffee in the woodsThe April/May 2012 cover story for Barista Magazine, “Coffee Women of the Pacific Northwest,” featured three female baristas posed elegantly in nature with coffee-brewing equipment, wrapped in blankets and chic woolen sweaters. The women were profiled in interview format with a short conclusion piece titled “Being a Woman in Coffee.” The story begins, “They were gathered around a wood stove at a party under the stars in Portland, Ore., laughing and sipping microbrews, talking about coffee, husbands, lip gloss, the Pacific Northwest, and back to coffee again.” Yet despite the idea that the story is ostensibly about being a woman in a male-dominated field, the article never once addresses sexism.

Specialty-coffee online magazine Sprudge ran a spoof on the Barista Magazine article titled “Coffee Women: Brewing Coffee Outdoors.” The parody consisted primarily of photos of Swedish barista Anne Lunell comically posing with coffee-brewing equipment in the Swedish countryside (as seen at the top of this article). It is unclear whether the spoof article was meant to mock the tokenism and latent sexism of the Barista Magazine article or the idea of profiling “women in coffee” in the first place. Anette Moldvaer, co-owner with James Hoffmann of London’s Square Mile Coffee, addressed the tokenism of “women in coffee” on Hoffmann’s blog, saying, “What I object to is still being defined as the ‘other,’ the one that’s not the norm. No one asks a guy what it’s like to be a man in coffee, or comments, ‘Didn’t he do well, and for a man too…’ when winning or achieving something.”

An image from a fake photo shoot featuring a woman looking thoughtfully at a coffeemaker in the middle of a cornfield.

Many people in specialty coffee are explicitly interested in gender parity, and a few of the better-known professional male baristas have publicly addressed the topic. For his 2011 “Tamper Tantrum” talk in Dublin, 2009 World Barista Champion Gwilym Davies appeared dressed in frumpy drag, jokingly calling himself Susan and saying he was the first woman to win the WBC. Instead of giving his originally scheduled presentation, Davies devoted the time to a rather bizarre and impromptu discussion concerning the lack of female presence “beyond the shop.” He noted, “You cannot avoid from looking at [barista competitions]...and saying, ‘That is a sausage fest.’ That is not a reflection of the barista community.... I started discovering this world beyond the shops—blogs, forums, the little conversations that we organized in pubs. This event...it’s full of bravado and strutting and people enjoying being onstage and it’s characteristically empty of females.” Although Davies’s intentions were good in bringing up the issue, his joking drag, odd choice of language, and clear lack of preparation unfortunately gave the talk an unserious air.

Responding in part to Davies’s talk, Hoffmann (also a World Barista Champion) devoted a 2012 blog entry to “Coffee and Gender.” He encourages addressing explicit forms of sexism in the coffee world, such as women being paid less or being passed over for promotion due to their gender. Ultimately, however, he advocates for a gender- (and race- and sexuality-) blind approach, writing, “Did I miss a meeting where we decided that equality was no longer about stopping the definition, pigeonholing and labeling of people based on an arbitrary characteristic such as race, sexuality, or gender? It’s awkward, it’s patronizing, and I’m fairly sure that very few of those being labeled define themselves professionally based on their gender.... I think a sole focus on gender results in discomfort and division.”

If specialty-coffee baristas are sincere in their calls for equality, there needs to be a shift in the conversation to talking explicitly about sexism in the spaces surrounding coffee so that the masculine is no longer the default. It isn’t that women are intentionally excluded from, or invisible within, the world of specialty coffee. It’s that they have substantially less power overall. Restricting the conversation in specialty coffee to one about women, instead of one about sexism, effectively forecloses an essential discussion about workplace equality both feminists and baristas (and feminist baristas!) should be having. Perhaps over their next cup of coffee?


Lisa Knisely holds a PhD in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, and is an assistant professor of the liberal arts in Portland, Oregon. One of her most cherished pastimes is reading feminist philosophy with a cappuccino.

 

Comments

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wow

I loved this article. It made me think about how baristas react to my coffee order. After spending a semester abroad in Australia, I cut out sugary coffees, because I got used to the bitterness of espresso drinks while there. Australians don't use a lot of sugar in coffee, at least in my experience in Sydney. When I tell a barista I want an iced latte or cappuccino, NO sugar, they often ask what flavoring I want. I tell them just espresso and milk and I have often got the reactions that they were impressed and/or surprised. This has always made me feel funny. As a WGS underground, I am so familiar with the gendering of food, but I really never applied this to coffee shops and espresso. I am so interested in this topic now. Thanks!

Interesting

What a really interesting ad great read. I guess this is another example of just how far women have to go to prove themselves in a male dominated society. Sexism is prevalent everywhere...even with our morning cup of joe.

Coffee is a feminist right! ;)

Is there sexism in specialty coffee? No doubt.

But, it's not ubiquitous. Out here in the wilds of San Francisco, there are a few of us feminist/ queer/ progressive baristas and coffee roasters working to create alternatives and create specialty coffee spaces that are truly spaces for all. Like any industry, it's a matter of supporting businesses that are in line with our values, from the coffee farmers, roasters, dairy farms, and all the way down.

Resources?

Hi Lyn!

Do you have any suggestions for resources for consumers to find out which baristas/roasters are feminist/queer or otherwise progressive so we can support them? That would be an awesome resource to have.

Cheers,
Lisa

I work at a specialty coffee

I work at a specialty coffee shop in downtown Portland and I've thought about this a lot. I think income might feed into the types of drinks women and men order more than gender. The most expensive drinks on our menus are 20 oz mochas and flavored cappuccinos, which can run over $6, and I would say the people that order these types of drinks the most often are businessmen in suits. The cheapest drinks you can get other than drip coffee are espresso shots and Americanos. The majority of people who order these are students and blue collar workers. I can't really generalize on the types of drinks that women order—it's really all over the board. It is worth mentioning, though, that just because a person orders espresso or an Americano, it doesn't mean that he enjoys straight espresso; there's plenty of cream and sugar for that person to add to his drink after the barista hands it to him.

As for the boy's club of the specialty coffee business, I can definitely attest to that. Every time I tour Stumptown's impressive facilities, I desperately search for a woman or person of color. The higher-ups there are overwhelmingly male and white. Women are mostly relegated to the back offices for secretarial work.

Thank you, and thank you.

Thank you, Dr Knisely.

With so much of the specialty coffee industry focused on urban areas, tilting decidedly liberal and identifying as progressive, I've definitely seen our community fall under a spell of some post-racial, post-sexist mythological haze.

Perhaps it's really more a problem with liberalism today, I think. I am liberal, therefore I can't make sexist or racist or homophobic or elitist mistakes. I see it reflected in the ongoing narrative about coffee farmers and fair trade. The upper echelons of specialty coffee tend to want to reject "fair trade" as outdated and beneath us, instead choosing our own (fundamentally masculine) individualistic path. In the process, the white savior complex proliferates the specialty coffee story.

There are foundational issues of masculine vs. feminine value structures that I see played out very frequently. The efforts I've seen at addressing sexism (or the "women in coffee" issue) have all seemed to focus on the goal of patting ourselves and each other on the back for successfully addressing the issue... without actually doing anything about it. I hope your article here can help refocus the efforts.

Thanks, Nick!

I think you're spot on about the post-racial, post-sexist mythology. It is a real challenge to address our own privileges and to get others to address theirs. Figuring out how to get people to do this in specialty coffee without having them get angry or defensive or indignant can be pretty difficult given the environment you point out where everyone is invested in thinking of themselves as properly liberal.

people of color/coffee

Sometimes we can try to look for those places who support our values, I recently found this coffee shop called "Tierra Mia" here in L.A. owner is Hispanic.

I can't necessarily testify

I can't necessarily testify to all that this article says but some I can speak to as someone in the specialty coffee industry in the Seattle Metro.

There is an overall shift in the industry on the left coast and those not getting on board are being left behind. The most companies with the brightest futures are moving away from being elite and into being inclusive. In think about when I first looked at opening a shop of my own, the roaster I settled on was owned by three white guys (who are some of the nicest and most helpful people in the industry I've ever met) but their head roaster is a woman. When I started looking at a consultant for the shop, hands down, there was only one person that I felt I would be willing to trust without hesitation and she is a strong well known woman working in Seattle and Portland. In fact, looking back, the majority of people on my top list to get to work at my shop were women. All but two I believe.

I personally believe that we will see a more more and more women owning shops and roasters on the left coast as we progress.

Who decided coffee had to be an industry for smug jerks? If the speciality coffee industry is going to pass that 50% mark we need to learn to be more approachable by the general public and that means getting rid of the boys club, getting rid of the rock star mentality, and not considering discrimination of class, race or gender as acceptable.

Thank You

As a female manager of three specialty coffee shops in a major city: thank you. I've been doing this work for six years and my personal experiences have ranged vastly depending on the company, but these are fundamental issues of the field as a whole. I have, at times, considered the formation of a "Women In Coffee" professional group in my city. Something part support part networking and part professional development. You've definitely made me think I should get a move on that.

I've been out of the States

I've been out of the States for two years and I was never a big coffee shop person when I was there, but as an English teacher in Seoul (working 12-hour days), I've kind of gotten forced back into the over-caffeinated life. Hearing that baristas are trending male is a big surprise to me, since here, it's rare to see a male barista -- coffee shops are dominated by female employees and generally owned by women.

It's tempting to say that this is because Korean feminism is like American feminism ten or twenty years ago, but I don't think that's really what's happening, not least because Korea has a completely different history and relationship with gender roles than the West. There's no doubt that there's some patriarchy going on, but male and female spaces are much more rigidly defined than in the West, and women defend their zones of power doggedly -- older Korean women actually won't allow men in the kitchen at all, since the kitchen is women's space. Many older people actually believe that men going into the kitchen is bad luck. I think this probably started out as a way to justify division of labor, but it's turning around on men by largely excluding them from the biggest boom in Korean business since Samsung and LG were founded.

One of my students a few months ago was a businesswoman who owned several coffee shops and her own roasting business in Hapjeong, who made some of the best coffee I've ever had in my life. She taught barista classes at Ewha Women's University and Yonsei University, two of the highest-ranked universities in Seoul, to classes of 99% female students on how to enter the industry, and was taking my class so she could teach English-language courses in China.

In Korea, the same kind of masculine ribbing in coffee shops doesn't happen, not even in the tiny independent shops. This might be because drinks and coffee consumption don't appear to be highly gendered -- if anything, coffee and tea is more feminine than masculine, because groups of men go out together to soju bars while go out to cafés, but everyone in Korea still consumes mind-boggling amounts of coffee. I'm not sure if that's more or less egalitarian than the American glare of judgment when ordering a hot chocolate with extra whip.

The division in coffee consumption seems to be more along class lines -- cafés are insanely expensive here, with my daily Rooibus tea costing $6 -- and age lines, with older Koreans refusing to pay for the expensive drinks and instead making instant coffee from tubes of grounds that look like pixie sticks. The only really strange thing I've noticed is the entire country's obsession with Americanos, on the belief that they're trendy because Americans must drink them, and the ever-present belief that Starbucks is king, although all the Korean coffee I've ever tasted kicks its ass because it's usually fresher, from the Philippines rather than Columbia.

I think your comment really

I think your comment really drives home the point that gender dynamics in coffee varies regionally and nationally. I would love to see more discussion of gender/race/class in coffee culture in different places/cultures/economies. Some sort of comparative transnational analysis is certainly in order!

Interesting!

Hello Dr. Knisely!
I really appreciate this thought-provoking article, thank you. I am a (female) coffee buyer and more representative of the upper echelon - to paraphrase a previous comment - at the company I work for and in the specialty coffee industry, than a member of the pink-collar barista workforce. I feel ambivalent about the role gender has played and continues to play in my career as a woman in coffee because sometimes I face challenges that men don't face, but other times, I am afforded a certain amount of awe, respect and attention for my work that men probably don't get, and as someone who likes attention, I perceive that as a benefit to being in the minority, gender-wise. Your suggestion that we re-frame the conversation about women in coffee as one about sexism (or gender?) gender, makes me a lot more inclined to engage in it because all of the sudden it's about everyone and not about one particular gender or representative individuals. That way of thinking opens up all sorts of possibilities for discussions of other forms of diversity and existing discrepancies - whether social, economic and ethnic - in specialty coffee. We have our work cut out for us, but I'm always optimistic!

Sincerely,
Kim Elena Ionescu

Great!

Hi Kim,

I'm so glad you found my suggestions useful! I think you're spot on that we need to open the conversation to include everyone in the industry (and consumers, too!) in discussions about gender and other forms of "difference" in specialty coffee. I would love to see this issue taken up more in coffee culture and beyond in a more thoughtful and serious way. I'd love to hear more about how you think gender has played out in your career personally. I actually had a male barista cite "the women from counter culture" as evidence that there was no sexism in the coffee industry as I was talking to people about the story.

Best,
Lisa

P.S. I love Counter Culture! I used to drink it a lot more when I lived in the south, but I try to drink it whenever I find it up here in the PNW.

Female Judges

I wish the author addressed the role of female judges at WBC. I counted 4 in the finals for 2013. I personally had 2 female judges for last years final for USBC brewers cup, 3 for compulsory round.

That is a great suggestion

I agree that discussing female judge's role in this issue would have added to the story! If any women judges from WBC or USBC want to get in touch with me to talk about their experiences and perspectives that would be really great.

LOVE THIS ARTICLE

I am in the specialty coffee industry as a Director of Wholesale at a local roaster, and all I can say about this article is YES on so many aspects.

When I first saw that Barista Magazine cover, my first thought was "HELL YEAH," but then the rest of the guys in the company said, "oh, have you seen that new Abercrombie and Fitch magazine" At the time, I was new to coffee and really pumped on that cover, even putting it in my locker at work to inspire me to work hard in the industry! However, I will agree that in retrospect, it didn't get deep into the gender issue, although it was good of them to focus on three leading women in the field. As a whole, Barista Magazine seems to do a good job with alternating men and women on their cover.

Being really invested in this industry, it is frustrating to see the gender gap. Definitely in competition, and also all over the industry. I recently went to origin for the first time, and apparently I was only the second woman to go on this particular trip in something like 5 years. Even the farmers treated me differently because they weren't used to seeing an American woman on the trips (didn't know if they should shake my hand, didn't know if I was participating in the cuppings..... . There was also the meaning to be nice stuff, like getting ONLY me a chair to sit down, which was polite but at the same time....offered a chair to only me when there were 10 other men in the room)

I do not know where to start with bridging the gap, but I will say that every woman in coffee I have met is AWESOME and we have some amazing, smart, passionate ladies in our industry. We gotta keep pushing!

Thanks for writing this article and bringing this issue to a bigger audience!

norms?

I have a lot of ambivalence about this topic, because I believe sexism exists less in specialty coffee than in many other industries, that is, until it's discussed the wrong way, and then we create the problem. I am a feminist and can't accept the phrase "women in coffee", because it lets a gripping (and yes, sexist) gender binary into our professional identities that makes accomplishment problematic: Would you like the feeling of rote achievement with your shitty tips, or the feeling of gender exceptionalism? The answer is somewhere in the middle, isn't it: when I was studying psychology people always told me how special it was that I was a straight male who wanted to be in the clinical field--a "nurturing" science--and nothing could have belittled my enjoyment of the subject more than that; but then, I was still proud to be seen as an exception to gender norms in my field, however superficial that feeling was.

Which leads me to gender norms in my current field. I'll submit that specialty coffeebars themselves are actually pretty queer! Because they take an exemplary gender-defined power structure of the West (the trading of 3rd world commodities by big white male-driven businesses who then market a product intended to be prepared by women for men) and turn it inside out, the goal being to disregard big business by selling anti-commodity products, while also providing a productive and independent community space for a liberal, taste-driven audience. So it follows that sexism, like ageism and racism and homophobia, at businesses like these, ought to be checked at the door or we're all hypocrites. To reach within this industry and make being a woman alone somehow exceptional, then we're going to feel better momentarily but miss the point: specialty coffee is at the very least less sexist than so many industries, and there are far more interesting categories at work than simply not being a guy.

I don't disagree with the fact that there are a disproportionate number of female to male barista champions. That is true. I do disagree with allowing the champion population to represent--too often we do this--the entire set of beliefs and trends of the greater field, in which there are a perfectly unremarkably high number of females kicking ass NOT despite being a woman. If competition is to be the population for a study in coffee, I'd look at competitiveness itself as the main variable, and then tie it to gender if you will. If competitions are going to be central to discussions about general norms in coffee, consider the nationally mixed audience, the high proportion of female judges, the straight married men pouring flowers and whisking ganaches, the co-ed roster, the fact that "proper attire" is simply an apron, the Prince soundtracks, and the stodgy "coffeeshop" service norms that are being re-broken each year.

Thanks for the article Dr. Knisely, it's a great piece!

Alternative masculinities

Hi Charlie,

Thanks for your in-depth comments. I think that exactly what brought me to write the piece is some of what you're saying. It is pretty surprising to me that gender inequality persists in coffee precisely because it wasn't a place I really expected to find it. I think there are a lot of alternative masculinities in coffee culture that are worth celebrating for their potential to be anti-sexist and liberating for all genders, but I also think a lot of those "new" masculinities come along with new forms of sexism so I'm perhaps less likely to let specialty coffee off the hook. I do think there are some real issues with sexism (and racism) in the industry that are worth addressing, perhaps especially because there is so much potential for rethinking global and local production and consumption relationships at the small coffee shop. That said, I think you're correct that there is probably more opportunity for some women (white/thin/middle-class) to advance in coffee than in more traditional professional fields. I highly recommend feminist geographers J.K. Gibson-Graham's book The End of Capitalism as We Know It if you're interested in the relationship between gender/race and remaking capitalist forms of exchange. On a somewhat related note: what do you think of the fact that your new job is for a coffee roaster called "Handsome" and that the merch and marketing for the company has a decidedly masculine feel, even if it is a kind of queered, urban, liberal masculinity?

Thanks for giving the article a read.

Lisa

A problem for women should be a problem for the enitre staff

This is excellent! Very well-reported; both critical and accessible. Thank you Lisa & Thank you Bitch Mag! I enjoyed reading it in the print edition over a cup of pour-over coffee this morning (for whatever it's worth, I'm a woman and I drink my coffee black.. haha), and exclaimed verbally many times in excitement and outrage.

Here's an anecdote of specialty coffee shop sexism that came up in my memory after reading about "the service industry's differing--and often sexist--expectations for female workers":

I worked in specialty coffee for a couple of years in Seattle's Pioneer Square, and on the night shifts, a bathroom attendant from a nearby club would often come in for a macchiato before his shift, make lewd small talk and ask one or more of the women baristas out (every time, despite repeated rebuffs!). An co-worker of mine took it up with our manager, a hip young artist fellow who was also a friend and generally a good guy. Our manager said that the customer wasn't so bad; he was buddies with the guys who worked there and tipped really well -- several dollars per drink (tipping is both essential for the survival of the barista, but not guaranteed, so it's a sensitive topic), so he suggested we just ignore him or get one of the guys to help him when he came in. Everyone who worked there was friends and went to the same parties, so it was often hard to navigate the space between managers and employees. Still, this co-worker, an inspiring feminist, was incensed, and gathered the other women who worked there to collectively confront our manager/friend. We said if this customer was a problem for the women who worked there, he was a problem for the entire staff, and it wasn't fair for us to bear the brunt of his approaches and be made to feel uncomfortable in our work space (held captive, as the counter service employee often is) just because he throws a few dollars in the jar. Luckily, our manager came around and agreed to 86 the guy. Still, it wasn't the last time a chum of the fellows treated the cafe & its staff as his own personal OK Cupid, and the men weren't always willing to call out their buddies in order to keep it safe and professional for us.