Tipping is a mostly American phenomenon. In restaurant culture it becomes a legal loophole which allows employees to be paid less than the federal minimum wage. It is considered so compulsory that many restaurants' printed checks will include a calculation tool or even add a non-negotiable gratuity line item for larger parties.
Coffee shops aren't allowed this loophole, but tipping has still found its way into the café. On the surface, it seems like a nice way for customers to express how much they appreciate service. There is value, however, in a bit of critical thinking about this tradition.
We will be doing a blog series on café culture. Though our mainstay is promoting home coffee craft, your experiencing a filter and/or espresso shop is inevitable. For example, most roasteries double as coffee houses, for better or for worse. The café is a treasure trove for points of critical thinking about the state of our culture and the specialty coffee industry as a whole. Let's spend some time thinking together about what it all means.
This post is the first of several contemplations on elements from our collective coffee past, some of which have been shrouded in shadow, undeservedly ignored, or even hastily condemned. We are focusing on these topics because of their contributions toward the full potential of coffee. We are kicking this series off with a very obvious example—Starbucks.