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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, April 14, 2024

The Sink baristas: An inside scoop (or more accurately, an espresso shot)

The student baristas brew their next order at The Sink cafe inside the Mayer Campus Center on Oct. 25.

At Tufts, we run on The Sink. Our favorite student-run coffee shop serves the campus caffeine day to night. The Sink space is eclectic from its distinct playlists to its famous special lattes — there’s no wonder why the line fills the Mayer Campus Center. The magic behind both the drinks and the background playlists are the baristas.

The Tufts Daily sat down with three baristas to get the inside scoop on the university’s most coveted job. Veronica Habashy, a first-year, and Nicole Biggi, a sophomore, have both started working at The Sink this year. Luke Pagan Petrosky is a junior and a veteran barista at The Sink with three years of experience under his belt. 

Petrosky shared the connection he builds with the Tufts community through the cups of coffee that he makes.

“It’s really just about making drinks for our peers … and it’s also about giving them a boost in their day, I feel like that’s important,” Petrosky said. “[Also] just letting them know that we see them and we feel their pain sometimes, and we feel their joy too.”

In agreement with Petrosky, Habashy added that she finds the job to be an escape from her hectic daily schedule at Tufts. 

“[The Sink is a] fun place to hang out and … to see people that I know and say ‘hi,’ … and play whatever music I want,” Habashy said. “It’s kind of therapeutic, like a break in the day.”

Habashy also demystified the application process to become a barista at The Sink.

“[The application process] was really scary, because … it is just like a myth, working at The Sink is like a myth [at Tufts],”  Habashy said. “[But] I actually had a lot of fun writing the application because it was making a persona basically. … My favorite part of the application was the question, ‘What are the five songs that you [would play] on aux?’”

Besides the application process, the thought behind the name, “Sink,” has remained a mystery to the Tufts community. The Sink was formerly known as the "Rez," according to Biggi and Petrosky, but the name was changed due to its inappropriate connotation.

Jael Strell, The Sink’s operations manager, explained the context behind the cafe’s name change. 

“Even though The Sink was named for its location in the residential quad (it was originally in the basement of Miller hall in the 80s), we felt uncomfortable keeping the name due to its other connotations. And it just felt especially inappropriate as we had no indigenous students on staff,” Strell, a senior,wrote in a message to the Daily.

Strell further elaborated on how the Campus Center cafe came to be named “The Sink.”

“We had a suggestion bowl where people could submit names, and then we narrowed it down with a vote within the staff, and then I believe that the managers at the time chose the final name or we voted and they had final say. It was between something along the lines of ‘middle ground’ or ‘The Sink’ and ‘The Sink’ won,” Strell wrote.

When asked about their favorite drinks at The Sink, the three baristas gave different answers: the Cinny Vanilly, Lucy and the Chai, Hot Carols and the Bee Sting. Habashy added that The Sink’s baristas can also come up with their own unique drink concoctions and names.

“It’s so fun to work for a completely student-run business. … If we wanted to create a new drink, we probably could,” Habashy said. “I really want to have jam for bagels. I’m trying to make it happen.”

Graphic by Halia Frishman

Next time you're at The Sink, pay close attention to the music because each barista gets to curate their own playlists, according to Habashy

“You can always tell who’s on aux when you're sitting,” Habashy said. “If you spend enough time there, you can match the music to the people.”

Through the job, Sink baristas get to know their customers, each other and even prospective parents, explained Petrosky

“We always get a lot of parents who come. … They’re very anxious about their child potentially coming to this school, and they ask us all these questions,” Petrosky said. 

Then of course, like any business, there are the regulars. 

“I feel like I know people who are regulars, but they don't know me,” Habashy said, “I know people’s orders, and I wonder what kind of person they are. Like who is this man, who’s always pacing around on the phone and then coming up to order two or three shots of espresso?”

In explaining the culture of The Sink, Biggi cited the “initiation” tradition to highlight how fun it has been to bond with her new fellow Sink baristas.

“We had muffins that were put around a table, and we had to kneel in a circle and eat them as fast as we could … which was crazy, but it was so fun,” Biggi said.

However, it is not always sunshine and rainbows at The Sink. One problem our baristas often face is supply shortages. Having to inform customers that their order is not in stock can be stressful, Biggi shared.

“When we run out of things, that’s my least favorite part,”  Biggi said. “People are like, ‘Can I have chai,’ and I’m like, ‘No.’ Or, ‘Can I have a latte,’ and [I respond,] ‘Maybe, what type of milk?’”

Echoing Biggi’s sentiment, Habashy shared unique challenges to a student-run cafe. 

“Last week we had an ungodly amount of skim milk, even though probably 20% of people [would] order skim milk, and we threw out eight gallons of skim milk because it all expired,”Habashy said.

At the end of the day, Petrosky, Biggi and Habashy’s love for their work, community and, of course, coffee is unanimous. 

“All I can say is that I’m very thankful to have the coworkers that I do, and I hope that everyone feels welcome and loved coming to The Sink,” Petrosky said.

Biggi reflected on her experience as a barista similarly.

“This kind of goes without saying, but The Sink is such a welcoming and warm environment, and I just love all the people who work there,” she said.