Meet Mohsen Hezarkhani, an Iranian barista who enjoys his cafe’s rush hour, loving the adrenaline that comes with beating his own personal record of most customers served in a certain time.
A self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur, Mohsen has worked across the globe following the drink, having met interesting people and seen amazing places. However, for him, nothing beats the memory-filled taste of a home brew, citing his favourite cup having always come from his mother who has a talent in Turkish coffee.
Growing up in the Islamic Republic of Iran, coffee has been a constant part of Mohsen’s life. He remembers travelling to Tehran for the ‘Best of Panama’, one of Iran’s first ever private coffee events, which introduced the art of coffee crafting to the area. Using the opportunity to grow and learn, Mohsen spent hours finding articles and information on the subject before attending the event; he remembers how limited the internet was then, and how little coffee featured on it. Despite this obstacle, his love for coffee grew, he found work as a barista and dedicated himself to perfecting his craft. Finding it seeping into every aspect of his daily routine, Mohsen has managed to build a life on coffee. However, he has often found it hard, struggling with the low wages that come with the career, and facing the stigma that many hold towards what they believe to be a low skill, easily done job. Baristas around the world understand this prejudice, even in the most accepting countries most are still viewed as ‘low-skill, low-wage’, when in fact, the opposite is true. A barista’s role is complex, they are responsible for opening the cafe at the beginning of the day all the way through to closing it at the end. They are customer facing, so they need to understand each individual and their order, they must know every part of each piece of equipment, they are cleaners, cashiers and even at times shoulders to lean on for the community.
During the Covid pandemic, many baristas lost their jobs suddenly and were given no aid, Mohsen himself faced some of these issues, and advises’ others to
‘just keep being passionate about what you do’.
We at ‘I’M NOT A BARISTA’ are campaigning for better barista rights, and wish to highlight Mohsen’s story as a way to draw attention to the difficulties that they, as a community, have faced. Tipping practices, for example, in Iran are almost non-existent, and often due to the already low wages, tips are a way of survival for many. Often, when people look down on a job, they tip less as they believe it has not been earned, this needs to change. To tip even a small 5% on a coffee order isn’t much per customer to give, however it can make a huge difference to a barista’s life, their cafe and even your local community.
Mohsen Hezarkhani is speaking at coffee event has described the extent of his low wages, saying that; “to buy a single brewing gadget with our currency, one must save their whole salary for 3 or more months, but compared to other countries, you only need to save for a week or two!”. This gadget could be crucial for his business to survive, it is also unreasonable to expect a barista to save their salary for so long and neglect their other expenses. Financial stability is a common issue in the life of most baristas, relying on the generosity of tips from customers to make ends meet, we here at I’M NOT A BARISTA have launched our #TIPABARISTA campaign with the aim of raising awareness of this problem, and encouraging people to help fix it.
Mohsen has shared his story with us to inspire others to ‘keep the passion of what you do’, he wants others to keep being inspired and to help where they can, as the coffee community grows, so too should our values and choices. At I’M NOT A BARISTA we share these morals of fair wages, sustainability and good ethics and hope that through sharing Mohsen’s story, you can help us make a change for the better, for all baristas, everywhere.