It is a normal Saturday night in Darlo and Carl and I are positioned the right side of the bar in Wetherspoons, drinking something that sounds like Syphillis (Lithuanian Lager!).
“But what if I just wanted a coffee? A plain, normal coffee with milk and sugar?”
“What does normal coffee mean? That’s like walking into a wine bar and asking for “wine please” – you’ve gotta say what sort!”
“Just a normal white coffee.”
“White? you mean, Latte? or cappucinno? Or… mocha? or…. Frappecino? Or Espresso con Panna? or even a white Americano?”
“Why is it called Americano?”
“I dunno, because American’s don’t like it if it sounds foreign….?”
This continues all night.
I KNOW Carl knows the difference, he even specifies sometimes, and he certainly appreciates the difference between good espresso-based coffees and the instant crap we buy in Nettos. But, this is amicable Saturday night bickering, practically an art form with us, and besides, he’s had three pints already.
For my part, I know exactly what he means too. There was a time when I would have been content with ‘normal coffee’ too. Hell, I only started drinking the stuff when doing mind-numbing data entry work for Lloyds bank when I was 17. The most interesting thing to do in that office was get up every so often and press a button on a machine to see what sort of brown, powdery shit-in-a-cup would magically appear in place of your 50p…
Things have progressed though, and the world does alter when you actually take the time to learn about what is is you are drinking. I learnt some things in Nicaragua, actually having seen what coffee plantations look like. I learnt a lot more at the Voodoo Cafe, making my beloved Love Potions and pink filters and uber-coffees initially to amuse teenagers, but often as not to amuse The Boss too. Caffe Nero is different again; same principle but different clientele – the Teenager Fanclub would neither know nor care if my espresso had poured for 15 seconds or whether it had hazelnut coloured crema on the top, but The People of Nero (who, incidently, have their own Facebook group…) really do appreciate the subtleties of good coffee and some even moan when it’s not done right.
So, I have had to learn the difference between espresso Ristretto, con Panna (not, as I thought, ‘with bread’) Doppio or Machiatta, make sure my tamp is right, and reject (or drink) the ones missing their crema. I’ve put in to do my coffee Maestro training, and soon enought I can call myself an official coffee gourmet.
Meanwhile, however, Carl came in to Nero’s today, confidently marched up to the bar and asked for his beloved Normal Coffee. An end to all this coffee snobbery! Victory to the layman!
He eventually got served an Americano, but did get asked
Regular or grande?
Sit in or take away?
Would you like any milk or cream?
Any cakes to go with that?
We maybe coffee gourmets, but we still work on the McDonald’s school of Customer Service scripts…..