The best way to learn about this job is by getting a part-time or summer job in a local cafe, coffee shop, or restaurant. Any job, even as a counter worker or dining room attendant, will give you the opportunity to see baristas at work. Customer service is a key aspect of working as a barista, and volunteering with groups such as Meals on Wheels can give insights into food and beverage service and how to work with the public. Part-time or summer jobs in stores and other retails settings are also helpful in gaining customer service experience.
Baristas mainly focus on preparing and serving coffee and other hot drinks. They are responsible for keeping coffee, tea, cups, and other supplies stocked and keeping track of inventory. Their duties may vary, however, depending on the size and type of establishment in which they work. For example, in small cafes, coffee shops, or even food and beverage stands such as those found in shopping malls, baristas may be responsible for everything from taking customers' orders and preparing drinks, to serving customers, handling payment transactions, and cleaning tables and counters.
In some cases baristas may be required to prepare snacks and serve food as well as beverages. Their job may also entail other housekeeping chores, such as mopping floors and taking out trash, during slow times. Wherever they work, they are typically responsible for keeping espresso machines, coffee and tea pots, and blenders and other equipment clean.
In small establishments, baristas may also seat customers, hand out menus, and make drink suggestions. They make sure tables are clean and have the correct utensils, napkins, condiments, etc. They may take customers' orders and answer questions regarding the drinks, such as the ingredients, how the drinks are prepared, etc.