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Tamar Barlev: A day in the life of a barista

At first a tiny coffee shop on 24th and Folsom in San Francisco, Philz Coffee has spread like wildfire into Palo Alto, creating out-the-door lines of loyal customers waiting for their daily “cup of love.” In late August, senior Tamar Barlev joined the Philz team and started working as a barista at the corner of Forest and Alma in downtown Palo Alto. “I love the place, I love the atmosphere, I love the people,” she said. “And the coffee is blatantly amazing.”

After studying for countless hours during her junior year at Philz, Barlev now spends her weekends fulfilling the company’s motto of “making people’s day, one cup of coffee at a time.” Although making coffee seems like a simple task, the training process took twenty-five hours, during which she had to learn to master the precision and technique expected of the workers.

Without revealing the tricks of the trade, Barlev explains that the coffee’s appeal can be attributed to the simple devices and unique blends, all developed by founder Phil Jaber. Making coffee in a small section of his grocery store in San Francisco, Jaber began experimenting with different blends from all over the world to create the perfect cup of coffee. Twenty-five years of researching and testing later, he decided to transform his corner grocery store to a coffee shop that would combine thirty of his best-tasting blends with the social aspect that coffee-drinking entails. From then on, each cup of coffee at Philz has been made one by one, tailoring to each individual customer’s request.

Making coffee at Philz has become only part of the baristas’ jobs. To achieve Jaber’s vision of creating a lively and interactive atmosphere, a huge emphasis is placed on customer service. Only the most friendly and sociable applicants are hired, which has gained Philz a reputation that has customers returning purely for the interactions with the baristas. “It’s kind of like speed dating,” Barlev said, reminiscing about some of the funny and interesting things she has heard during the few minutes she has to chat with her clients. One of her customers happened to be an interviewer for a college she is applying to and gave her helpful pointers and advice with her application.

Although it is difficult to juggle school, extracurricular activities and a job, Barlev believes that working at Philz has been an incredible experience and has helped her keep perspective while dealing with the stress of senior year. “I am constantly with people who are in a hysteria over school,” Barlev said. “Then I go to work and I get that it’s okay to not be obsessed with college and have this academic hysteria. Just do what you love, live your life and have hobbies.”

For those who have not yet experienced Philz, Barlev recommends trying Philtered Soul, one of the most popular Philz blends. According to Barlev, it’s important to order with cream and sugar instead of trying a more healthy alternative, for it simply does not create the same effect. The Mint Mojito is another crowd pleaser that is constantly ordered on hot days. “My personal favorite is the Chamomile Yerba, but it’s an acquired taste because yerba tastes a little earthy,” she said. She suggests trying the drink with a teaspoon of honey.

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