If Your Starbucks Barista Is Wearing a Black Apron, This Is What It Means

Updated: Nov. 18, 2022

These Starbucks baristas are the real deal.

As a barista at my local coffee shop, I can honestly say that I love coffee—grinding beans, pulling espresso shots, crafting drinks and, of course, drinking coffee. The aroma and taste, in my humble opinion, is unparalleled.

If you’re a Starbucks fan who dreams of coffee beans or the secret menu, you probably have a passion for the beverage, too. But select Starbucks baristas take this passion to an entirely different level. If you see a barista wearing a black Starbucks apron, they’re the real deal.

Why Do Some Baristas Have a Black Starbucks Apron?

If you walk into Starbucks and notice an employee with a black apron, ask them any coffee questions you have, because they’re a Starbucks-certified coffee master.

The title of “coffee master” means that a barista has expert knowledge about Starbucks coffee. From questions about brew and roast methods and Starbucks history to the fundamentals of a good cup of joe, coffee masters have the answers.

What Does It Take to Become a Coffee Master?

Starbucks doesn’t hand out its prestigious black aprons to any barista. This is Starbucks’ highest level of recognition, and with it comes a ton of responsibility, plus hours of studying and coffee tasting.

Not everyone is cut out for a career as a coffee master. The best Starbucks baristas have a willingness to learn about coffee and share that knowledge with customers. Then, once selected for the program, partners are given a coffee passport workbook and journal to complete, which act as all-encompassing guides to the world of Starbucks coffee.

To become a coffee master, baristas need to be able to answer questions on taste, roast, acidity and body profiles. The coffee experts can also discuss growing methods, varietals, food pairings, how temperature affects taste and much, much more. Even if you frequent Starbucks and drink coffee every day, you probably won’t be able to answer these questions—and that’s OK! Starbucks coffee masters have you covered.

Are There Other Starbucks Apron Colors?

Yes! Starbucks has a variety of apron colors outside of green and black. Red aprons appeared in 1997 to celebrate Christmas and the glitzy holiday cups, while yellow aprons were worn at some stores with the launch of Teavana. Purple aprons mean you’re in the presence of a barista champion, of which there are only 26 chosen each year.

If you spot an apron with an American flag, it means you’re talking to a veteran—who can also get free Starbucks on Veterans Day—or a military spouse, and if you see a mortarboard embroidered apron, your barista is a graduate of the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. Last but not least, green aprons with ASL fingerspelling are used by Starbucks partners who identify as Deaf individuals and use ASL as their primary form of communication. This apron is used at Starbucks’ only Signing Store in the USA, which is based in Washington, D.C, and lets customers understand the best way of communicating with their barista. Starbucks also has Signing Stores in Malaysia, China and Japan.

Think you’ve got all of your Starbucks bases covered? Here are things Starbucks employees won’t tell you.