Phyllis Hoffman does not drink coffee, yet, she spends 40 hours every week serving it to customers on the University of Colorado's Boulder campus.

Iced mochas, chai lattes and blended caramel frios may not be Hoffman's drink of choice (she spends her days sipping on bottled water), but she can't imagine her life without the caffeinated concoctions.

Hoffman, 65, is a full-time barista at Baby Doe's Coffee and Bakery in the University Memorial Center and said she has come to love the job, despite her constant contact with the brewed beverage, she said.

"I have high blood pressure so I just can't really drink the stuff," she said. "It's not about the coffee anyway, it's the customers that I enjoy so much."

Hoffman has been working at CU since 2000 when she was hired as a barista at a cafe in Wolf Law, that's since closed. In 2006, she moved to Baby Doe's and said now she can't imagine ever leaving, even for retirement.

"I would just miss it too much," Hoffman said. "Even when I'm gone because I'm sick or something I start missing this place and the people after a couple of days."

The students are her favorite part of the job, Hoffman said.


She can't decide what it is about them that makes her day go by so quickly -- maybe it's their energy or the fact that even when the lines are long they're always so patient -- but their friendly faces are what keeps her coming back.

At 6 a.m. Hoffman is one of the first people to arrive at the UMC. With an hour until the cafe opens, she has time to stock the snacks and replenish the cup rungs before she opens the gate to a line of customers hoping to jump-start their morning with a jolt of java.

A smile slides across Hoffman's face as a student enters the cafe on the main floor of the campus hub and scans the menu that lists more than 20 drink options, made with Pete's Coffee.

"Do you know what you'd like," Hoffman asks.

She's hoping he will order a caramel, white mocha, latte frio, a blended coffee that is her favorite to make; instead, the student decides on a traditional coffee.

"They're just so pretty and I get to put lots of whipped cream on top," Hoffman said.

It's not long before someone orders a frio and Hoffman grabs the blender and the can of whipped cream and begins mixing the ingredients into icy perfection.

Around 1 p.m. a steady flow of customers enter the cafe looking for an afternoon boost. Hoffman said the busier she is the better.

"It makes the day go by so fast," she said. "It's fun when it gets busy and gets my adrenaline going."

Among the smaller-than-usual summer crowd, is Jimmie Baker, associate director of the UMC.

"Hi Phyllis," Baker says as he approaches the counter with his post-lunch snack. "How are you today?"

The pair makes small talk for a few seconds as Hoffman makes change for Baker before he heads back upstairs to his office to finish the day.

Baker said he stops in Baby Doe's at least 10 times a week for snacks or coffee and Hoffman's customer service is one of the main reasons he keeps coming back.
Phyllis Hoffman is a barista at the University Memorial Center s Baby Doe s Coffee and Bakery at the University of Colorado.
Phyllis Hoffman is a barista at the University Memorial Center s Baby Doe s Coffee and Bakery at the University of Colorado. (Whitney Bryen)

"It's great to see her face everyday," Baker said. "She always knows who you are and asks if you're having a good day and it's that kind of service that brings you back."

Hoffman said close to 50 percent of her daily customers are regulars who make frequent trips to the cafe but she's never too quick to get their order ready, just in case they change their mind.

"One man always orders a mocha frio with soy milk but if I start making it right when I see him coming then that will be the day when he changes his mind," Hoffman said.

She said a few of her regulars know about her personal life, which revolves mainly around her three grandkids and two great grandkids, but there's not always time to chit chat with the customers. 

"Every second counts at Baby Doe's," she said.

Even during the summer, Hoffman said the customers keep coming and keeping them waiting is her least favorite part of the job.

"I hate running out of coffee because then they have to stand there and wait while I get more ready," Hoffman said. "I try to keep back ups ready."

Exceptional customer service is just one of the things that makes Hoffman an outstanding employee, said Marc Rich, retail manager for the Alferd Packard Grill and Baby Doe's.

Rich said he hopes Hoffman's work ethic and responsibility will rub off on the other Baby Doe's employees, most of which are CU students.

"It's our responsibility to provide real-life work experience," Rich said. "She's always moving and doing something and that's a good example for the students who are still developing their work ethic."