Saturday, February 04, 2006

Just get my drink right.

Years ago, when us cowsins were in college and starting to travel in the US, we discovered for ourselves how distinct our coffee habits have become in Seattle. We speak with a precision about coffee that others find pretentious. On the other hand, it has become an increasingly more common topic among us how frustrating it is to get the drink we ordered, and more often than not, it comes with a side of attitude.

My story It took me months to realize that in Ann Arbor, the words "tall" and "double" are synonomous (order a double short and watch their little brains explode). Also, when you order a cappuccino, you get a latte. When you order a latte, you get a milky disaster. There is no actual cappuccino in Ann Arbor (exception).

My friend B's story My friend in DC had to explain to baristas not to steam his iced drinks. "Iced mocha, please don't steam it." Then he would walk around the corner and watch them make his drink, and then invariably, he would have to STOP THEM from steaming his iced drink. "Oh," they said once, "don't you want the steam flavor?" Excuse me, what the hell is steam flavor? Do you steam your pepsi before icing it down?

Cowsin C's story She was in Denver, and she ordered a latte. They corrected her pronunciation: actually, it's called a la-TAY. Sbagliatissimo.

Cowsin L's story This is a brand new one. She just called me this morning from Denver. Apparently she was mocked for ordering a "tall chai latte." Tall? they scoffed--that's Starbucks language! You're supposed to call it a "venti." WROOOOOOOOOOOONG. Starbucks marketing language = tall/grande/venti. Normal language = short/tall; the 20 oz 'venti' has no equivalent in the real world, because it's too damn much. Nobody needs that much coffee.

For you morons of Espresso Royale Ann Arbor, tall/short refers to the size of the cup. Single/double refers to the number of shots of espresso.

For ten years, my dear friend D assumed we were just being pretentious and high maintenence. She grew up in LA, and so I'm sure the espresso culture is different there, as well. I was finally able to bring our plight into focus for her recently, though, when she imagined what it would be like to order a manhattan with markers mark and a twist, and get a manhattan with wild turkey and a cherry, and she finally got it. It's about getting what you ordered.

Here's the score: JP = NOT crazy high maintenence. ERC Ann Arbor = stunningly, bafflingly incompetent. Don't be surprised.

I rarely order espresso drinks anymore, for a number of reasons. But I wil tell you, dear readers, that there are some espresso bars in Seattle that make you want to be a better person. I went to Espresso Vivace's sidewalk stand a while ago, and ordered a run of the mill double-short, no big deal. What I got back nearly brought tears to my eyes. I watched the dude pour it, because I was kind of in a hurry... I watched him, and he didn't do anything special to it, but when he handed it to me, there foam had three concentric circles and a perfect leaf. The roast tasted like deep space, with a note of chocolate. It tasted like integrity. When I took a sip, I could have sworn I heard a gong.

And then I thought bitterly about the hundreds of dollars I must have wasted at Espresso Royal Caffe of Ann Arbor, that pile of ass.


Micaela said...

Cowsin C's story is actually worse - She asked for a latte and the waitress said, "you mean a lottie?" that's right. "LOT-tea". And then I remember C saying something like, "Do you want me to just go back there and make it?!". or maybe she said "GET THE F OUT OF MY WAY" and actually did make it... does she read? I want to hear her side.

One time I ordered a frappuccino in San Francisco before Starbucks had fully turned into an empire. I got a watery cup of sweet milk. I know, it was a frappuccino, but still.

john patrick said...

I bet they steamed it.

Micaela said...

I just got a leaf today from Cupcake Royale/Verite Coffe. I thought it would be ruined after the short car ride to work, but now it's just poofier looking like those succulent cactuces. and I've drank half of it!