The Barista | Aiperi Aalieva
She stands in a space the size of a cockpit. Facing the control panel, she cranks knobs, adjusts levers, and checks gauges to make sure all systems are go. It’s not an airplane she maneuvers, but a machine that offers a different sort of lift off: 21-year-old Aiperi Aalieva runs the tiny Coffee Mania coffee station on AUCA’s first floor.
For the past two and half years, Aalieva has spent her days caffeinating a steady stream of students, staff and faculty.
“I understand now the language of coffee,” she says.
When she’s not at Coffee Mania, she attends the Academy of Tourism. When she is at Coffee Mania, she sees her work as part psychologist, part performance artist and part barista.
“When I see someone come, I see in their face what is happening. I hear them talk and see their behavior and in my mind I guess what kind of coffee they will have. When some students come and I see they are stressed or upset, when I give them their coffee I tell them I added something extra. Something like a smile or some kindness or some happiness,” she says.
Aalieva says she works 50 hours a week. “Always there are students waiting for me when I get here in the morning.” Her contract says she will begin at 8:30 but Aalieva comes to work early. “In the morning when students have an early class, they want their coffee.”
On busy days she makes up to 40 cups an hour—lattes, macchiatos, smoothies, coffees iced and hot. “I improvise and don’t make the coffee the same way twice. Making coffee should always be improvisation.”
And when the day is over Aalieva says the last thing she wants is to think about coffee. Even though she doesn’t want to, she takes her work home with her. “My clothes and my hair always smell like coffee,” she says. “And so do my hands. Especially my hands.”