After experiencing pained but patient expressions on harassed staff’s faces, I ask you, “Why can’t I just order a cup of coffee?”
My previous choices while travelling around Europe had been simply coffee or tea. (Although in some of the more remote villages the patron had to leave the beer pumps unattended, dust off a chipped mug and go in search of hot water.)
Taking care to study long menus of coffee in different joints, with much muttering and consternation, I thought I’d finally got it all worked it out. Depending on what coffee shop I was in, Starbucks et al, I would casually ask for brewed or drip coffee or an Americano.
After a quick glance at the menu at a local café I asked for two small Americanos.
“12 oz or 8 oz?” In other words, small or very small? You can’t possibly want a tiny little 8 oz. cup of coffee.
“Single or double?”
What? Oh, right. A double shot would make us tea-drinking coffee novices hyperactive for the rest of the day. “Single.”
“With room?” Oh, I know that one. I should have asked for Americanos with room. Otherwise the cup is filled to the brim with coffee and no room for milk – no, cream, they call it cream, even if it is milk.
“For here or carry out?”
There, that wasn’t so hard was it for two small plain coffees? But then we had to puzzle over whole milk, skim milk, half & half or soy milk. The land of too much choice was still baffling us.
Starbucks at the mall was a favorite haunt for its amusement value. With a prime location at the entrance of the mall it was always busy, busy, loud and chaotic with three baristas taking orders and three more baristas churning out the orders at the back. I learned to order an 8 oz. brewed in a 12 oz. cup topped up with hot water, as it was always too strong, with room and a cup of ice water to quench my thirst after I’d drunk the coffee which always left a bad taste in my mouth. I would bellow my order over the head of the customer in front who was chanting out their long order to another barista, then hear my order hollered to the back of the shop. A third patron was doing the same. Nothing seemed to be written down. Everyone shouted.
Then one would step to the next counter to wait, and the real fun began. I never identified the body because bags of ground coffee, mugs, coffee pots and other coffee paraphernalia were piled high between me and her but orders began to appear on the counter accompanied by the most wonderful sing-song voice, “I have a tall peppermint frappuccino. I have a grande cappuccino light. I have a tall mocha caramel frappuccino with extra cream. Here’s a cinnamon dolce latte with extra syrup. I have an iced white mocha. I have a venti extra maple extra whipped blended frappuccino and I’m still working on two grande non-fat lattes. Here’s a double-top sugar-free cinnamon dolce frappucinno with hazelnut syrup. I have an espresso macchiato.” And on it went in a high-pitched syrupy voice that sliced through the crowd like a knife through a low-fat double-top strawberry & crème extra whipped sugar-free dolce frappuccino with caramel and chocolate chip syrup, while surely my little black coffee and water got lost in the madness, but no, “I have a small brewed with room and ice water,” and there it was! My order! I felt almost American again immersed in coffee shop society.
But shouldn’t I now get a bit more adventurous?