Within a block or two of TOC’s offices are two Starbucks outposts, an Intelligentsia, an Argo Tea, a Lavazza, a Barnes & Noble with a coffee bar, and approximately 37 Dunkin’ Donuts stores. I used to frequent all of them equally for my daily caffeine requirements—until one day I realized I’d started favoring one Starbucks over all else. And it wasn’t for the Frappucinos. It was for Taylor.
RECOMMENDED: Best coffee in Chicago
His name isn’t actually Taylor, mind you. But that’s what I’d named him in my daydreams. The musical-theater writers Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler have a hilarious song called “Taylor, the Latte Boy” (“bring me java, bring me joy”) that’s a favorite of Kristin Chenoweth’s (you can find multiple versions on YouTube); the character sings about her infatuation with her local counter jockey. It’s the exact situation I’d found myself in. I had a barista crush.
It had started innocently enough, when supercute Taylor’s friendly banter seemed to get more friendly. Wait a minute, I found myself thinking. Was he flirting with me? (Spoiler alert: He was not.) But once that possibility had taken root in my mind, I found myself changing my coffee-related behavior: I began patronizing his store exclusively, and sometimes more than once a day if he wasn’t working during my morning visit. Where I used to vary my order, I didn’t argue when Taylor decided I was a perpetual Venti Vanilla Soy Latte. Who could contradict someone so good-looking?
The funny thing is, I’d been on the other side of this phenomenon back in my bartending days. I knew perfectly well how friendliness from those providing our lifeblood—whether it’s booze or beans—can be mistaken for flirtation, and how service-industry smarties can work that to their advantage. This was no different, it seemed—as one espresso artist put it on the Web forum BaristaExchange.com, “We’re the a.m. bartenders”—and judging by an informal survey of my friends, it’s just as common. And I’d fallen for it. At least my newfound self-awareness has helped me cut back on my Starbucks habit. (Also, Taylor got another job.)