Do baristas deserve tips?
Baristas make much less in tips than say, a bartender (I know, a bartender is a barista but you know what I mean). The positions are often equivalent in terms of training and skills, yet a bartender is typically going to receive at least $1-2 per drink and a barista is lucky to get a few cents worth of change.
I predict that the tipping of baristas is going to be a mounting concern as third wave coffee takes off. In order to maintain a high end cafe you need good equipment, good beans, and good staff. To maintain a good staff you need to be able to retain well-trained quality employees, which means paying well. Cafes don't usually pay well. Starbucks has done a lot for coffee, but it has also set the barista's pay right around minimum wage. That wage is not enough to retain the caliber of employee necessary for the best quality coffee possible. Tips are required to make up the gap.
The problem is that baristas are not widely recognized as a tippable profession in America.
Regardless of how you feel about tipping*, the barista is a position that deserves reasonable tips. I think that most people fail to distinguish between your average PBTC at most coffee shops, and a well educated barista. I don't normally tip someone hitting buttons on a super automatic, but I always tip a barista for a good drink.
* I've worked in the foodservice industry for most of my life and depended on tips, but I wish that the U.S. was not such a tip-happy culture. I'd actually prefer to receive a higher hourly wage and do away with tips completely. A service charge or higher prices would be required to pay the higher wages. But, until that happens baristas should be tipped in accordance with our culture's norms.