I'm ignoring the fact that I just sent my baby off to her last first day of grade school. She's so ready for high school, she'd like to skip 8th grade and go directly to the land of lockers and proms (She's been shopping for a prom dress since she was 9). Instead, I'm going to focus on something that makes me laugh every time I'm ordering coffee beverages at a coffee beverage place.
Going to a coffee place is the way suburban women can make themselves feel trendy and hip. And the fact that coffee is one of the few legal addictions to have (and it is our addictions that bind us together...think about that nugget of wisdom later today.) drinking coffee, and more importantly ordering coffee from a trendy coffee place is a skill to have. Personally, I didn't drink a drop of that black elixer of life until I was 36 and needed something to keep me awake after watching those late night NHL playoff games. Six years later, I'm a card carrying coffee drinker very close to sucking the stuff down like truckers do...black and bitter.
There are some unwritten rules to ordering coffee in a coffee place. And, as a public service, I'm here to help.
2) Don't ask "What should I have?"
This question will only result in a completely blank stare. Those familiar with the movie "Joe Versus the Volcano" (And if you're not, you better get familiar because it's required viewing for this blog.) will recall the scene in which Joe asks his driver, Marshall, where he should go to buy clothes. This exchange ensues:
Marshall: They just pay me to drive the limo, sir. I'm not here to tell you who you are.
Joe: I didn't ask you to tell me who I am.
Marshall: You were hinting around about clothes. That happens to be a very important topic to me, sir. Clothes, Mr...
Marshall: Banks. Clothes make the man. I believe that. You say to me you want to go shopping, you want to buy clothes, but you don't know what kind. You leave that hanging in the air, like I'm going to fill in the blank. That to me is like asking me who you are, and I don't know who you are. I don't want to know. It's taken me my whole life to find out who I am, and I'm tired now. You hear what I'm saying?
You cannot ask a barista what you should have and expect anything other than a blank stare. The correct question to ask is: "What's your favorite beverage?" OR, "I want something cold. What do you suggest?" (Don't know if you want a cold beverage or a hot one? Get out of the coffee place immediately and don't come back until you've at least figured out what temperature you want.)
3) Size matters. Figure out how to pronounce the sizes or order the ones you can pronounce.
Face it. I'll always order a "Tall" or a "Venti" because I am not sure if it's "GRAND" or "GRAND-AY." Don't say small, medium, or large, because these are not words the baristas understand and they will fire back "do you want that as a tall?" Tall is SMALL. Venti is BIG. the middle one we don't order.
4) Watching your weight? Here's what you say:
Those of you savvy enough to have studied up on this know that if you 86 (That's a restaurant term for get rid of or run out of) the whipped cream and whole milk from coffee beverages you save yourself half the fat and calories. Ah, but how to order this and not look like some nit picking dingbat like the woman I was behind at the deli.
Okay, I have to tell you this story because, well, it just happened and it made me laugh. After I got over being furious. I went to the deli at my local mega mart to get some sliced cheese and roast beef for Skippy's sandwiches. I managed to get behind a woman who had six children (All hers from the looks of it) with her. Five of the six were mobile and were buzzing around like noisy bees. I've been there. That didn't bother me. She made them all go sit on the display of soda cases...I thought that was brilliant. What made me mad was when she got to the counter and said this:
"What ham do you have that's not processed?"
You're laughing, right? You should be. The deli clerk, a patient man, said, "Ma'am, it's ham. It's all processed in some way."
"Yes, but what is the least processed ham you sell?"
(I cannot make this up, this really happened.)
"Well, I guess this one," he points to one of the nine different kinds of ham in the case. All of the ham, it should be noted, looks exactly the same, except they have different titles. Some is "Honey baked" some is "Smoked apple wood." But all of it looks like...ham.
"Is that the least processed ham you sell?"
(Now, at this point, I'm ready to jump behind the counter myself and yank out one of the fifty pound unsliced hams they keep and through it at her, because it's had one less step in the processing process...it hasn't been sliced.)
The Deli Clerk, an awesome picture of super human patience, then points to the basic store brand ham and says, "I think this one is maybe a little less processed."
The woman is over joyed. She says, "Good, I will take half a pound of that. I don't want my children eating processed foods."
So I've told you that story to explain why you should know how to order something with less fat. Coffee places offer a "lite" version of their drinks. I'm here to tell you, don't order that. The lite versions are nasty. It's like diet soda without the whimsy. If you want to get something that is far lighter than the original that still tastes good, order it "non fat, no whip." They will remove the whipped topping and replace whole milk with skim. Not sure if a beverage comes with whipped topping? It's perfectly okay to ask that question.
5) You're in a coffee place. If you want something that doesn't taste like coffee, get a fruit smoothie.
Ordering in a coffee place in the suburbs is a trip sometimes. I love getting behind middle aged women who want to be hip and drink the cool coffee stuff, but really don't like the coffee flavor. This is a transcript of an actual order I witnessed recently.
Woman: I'd like something hot, but what do you have that doesn't taste like coffee?
Barista: We have fruit smoothies.
Woman: I don't like fruit smoothies. I want something hot.
Barista: We have teas, hot and cold.
Woman: I don't like tea.
Barista: We have bottled water and sparkling water.
Woman: No, I want coffee. But what do you have that doesn't taste like coffee?
Barista: Well, since all of our coffee drinks have coffee in them, I suppose they all taste like coffee.
Woman: What about the mocha?
Barista: That would taste like coffee.
Woman: What about the espresso?
Barista: That would really taste like coffee.
This went on for about five minutes until the woman decided she'd try a mocha frap. (That's a frozen blended coffee drink that has a hint of chocolate. It is neither hot, nor is the coffee flavor hidden in any way.)
If you do not like the flavor of coffee, try the fruit smoothies, the teas (I like the vanilla latte ruibos myself.) or don't go to a coffee place.
May I suggest starting your coffee experience at the gas station? Believe me when I say, gas station cappuccino is a gift of the gods, all creamy and sweet and hardly any coffee flavor at all. Start with that and, in a couple of years when you realize that drinking gas station cappuccino doesn't make you look trendy in anyway, gradually work your way through the coffee place's menu until you find the drink you really like. Then, like my hubby, you too can just say, "I'll have the usual." and look seriously trendy to your non coffee drinking friends.
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