Victoria Arthofer is the owner and full-time barista (plus back-office worker, cleaning lady and facility manager) at Das Kleine Schwarze, a coffee shop in the small Austrian town of Steyr. Das Kleine Schwarze has been up and running – and thriving – for just over a year now, thanks to the hard graft of Victoria and her partner Ahmed.
Before her cafe dream came to life, Victoria Arthofer started out in the speciality scene at Kaffee Alchemie, where she first caught the coffee buzz and never looked back.
Victoria, what is your first memory with coffee?
A rather disgusting one, because I didn’t actually enjoy coffee for a long time. Though, having said that, one of my favorite things to do was meeting my group of friends in school at my place (driving my parents crazy) for afternoon coffee, where I always had tea.
Could you describe the moment or situation that made you decide to become a barista?
I had just returned from a project abroad and I knew I would have to find a new job. It was clear to me that I would need to find something new; a job where I could learn and a process which made sense to me. One of my best friends told me about Kaffee Alchemie and pushed me to apply – this was the coffee shop where it all began!
What is the funniest thing that you have experienced behind the bar? Can you recall any embarrassing moments?
Hmm… there was this elderly lady entering the shop in Salzburg one morning (like a Tuesday or Wednesday at around 9:30), confidentiality asking for an Irish Coffee (well, I don´t judge). The best part was when she studied our cake vitrine (which had cakes, muesli bars, etc.) and seriously complained that “But that’s not a breakfast that you have here!”. I couldn’t help thinking, ‘That’s NOT a breakfast coffee that you just ordered.’ Anyway, she was served and left happily in the end.
The most embarrassing moment was during one of the hot summer days in that little sauna (also known as Kaffee Alchemie). Everyone was away (probably swimming) and there were only two customers asking for iced coffees. It was John [Stubberud] and me at work, and I was on to prepare the Shakerato. While shaking that double espresso over ice in a shaker, the shaker opened up and I basically spilt the whole drink on me and my apron. Twice in a row.
If a career in coffee was not an option, what job would you be doing?
Working in a plant or book shop (with a little coffee machine in the corner).
Do you have an unusual habit or hobby that you love?
I love growing plants – for me, repotting is a form of meditation. I love traveling and maybe smuggling a few seeds back home with me.
What is your piece of advice for anybody starting a career as a barista?
Be open minded, stay curious and keep your humor – even the dark kind.
What qualities set a good and a great barista apart?
Personally, I am humble. My coffee-colleagues offer their honest support (for all the different situations one might be in), often without you having to ask for it, but because of their empathy – everything from helping open a shop, with all the challenges that come with it, to advice around industry competition, or even help during a crisis like COVID-19. Maybe these are good moments to say “Thank you”?
What helps you to handle a bad day at the cafe and to provide good customer service?
Deep breaths and friends who (sometimes) have to function as therapists.
… Is it bad if I say “Wine”?
What is the one thing that you would miss the most if you could not work as a barista anymore?
Daily encounters with people, and all of the stories around them.
What has been the best experience you have had in the speciality coffee industry so far?
Making very special friends – from colleagues to customers. That, and a coffee farm visit that I went on just recently. Together with a coffee friend, we spent some time at a coffee farm in Nicaragua. It was an amazing, intense learning experience.
Quick Fire Questions for Victoria Arthofer
Would you serve filter coffee with milk, if asked for it?