A Funny Thing Happened to Princess at the REAL Coffee Shop, This Morning - and she did not know what to do...
There are a lot of coffee shops in the area where I go every summer to relax by the ocean for a week, and one of the great pleasures for me during the week is exploring which one has the best espresso, the best baked goods, and the best combination of coffee and baked goods. Gives me a chance to kill a little time each morning, check emails and think about what the rest of the day should bring – caffeine tends to do that.
In this small town, which only has a few months out of the year for a real season – there are surprisingly good and authentic coffee shops making high quality espresso and other drinks in the traditional manner. There are no corporate Donuts or Bucky brands around. This is a good thing as it allows the shops to pull real espresso, and the kids in the shops tend to know as much as any inner-city barista – many of these probably are baristas on summer jobs. For fans of really good espresso – this works. They also tend to charge like there are only a few month of the year to make all their money; taking advantage of un-attentive patrons and parents looking to sugarffiene their headaches into submission.
The town also is awash with a homogeneous replication of upper-middle-class white families – most of the Irish / Catholic / Mid-Atlantic variety. There is no variety here and the place is dripping with Suburbans and suburbanites used to their daily over-sized Buckies. And here lies the problem. Princess is in line in front of me, scans the chalkboard, notes the word Macchiato, and orders her daily Grande Macchiato. I chuckle to myself. I don’t want to sound all-knowing, but I know this 16/17 year-old has no idea what a real macchiato looks like, let alone tastes like. Any-hoot, I place my order as Winners and Losers by Social Distortion trips across the radio (ironic and odd, even for this place), then slide to the pick-up counter, where Princess is just getting her drink (in a little cup, no less).
She looks like someone just handed her a dead rat, and she is not happy. She hands it back to the barista and says, “this is not a macchiato – I ordered a grande macchiato.” The tattooed barista, who has probably answered this question 10 times already this morning and is in no way going to indulge Princess, says that it is a macchiato (one size is clearly highlighted on the chalkboard), and goes about pulling the next round of drinks, ignoring the annoyed pout stuttering at the counter.
Here then is the second, and probably more offending, problem – Princess has no idea what to do? This well-to-do child of a presumably well crafted life and good education stalls and cannot figure out how to resolve this disaster. Do I drink this miserably small drink? How will I sip on this for the next hour with the other Princesses at the table – and will they think less of me with this undersized paper cup? Where is the ice and caramel? How do I get a real macchiato?
Fortunately (for her at least), Mom comes to the rescue, so to speak. After a quick exchange, Mom takes the drink and gets back in line. To her credit she did not jump to the front, but stands in behind the rest of the patrons patiently waiting to get the right drinks. I mention with a commiserating smile – “Not what she expected?”, and Mom says, “No, we are used to (Buckies’) REAL Macchiatos, not these little things.” I think to say that it is a real macchiato, but know it’s a losing cause, smile and walk away.
The last I heard as I was swirling a little sugar into my espresso was Mom telling the girl with the Eastern-European accent at the counter that the drink was not a real macchiato and her Princess just wanted one like they make at Buckies. I think the Eastern-Euro counter girl swore something under her breath, but said out loud that it was a real macchiato – but if she wished, she could choose any of the drinks off of the other chalkboard – all flavored and over-sized, plastic cup “coffee drinks”. The woman smiled and ordered one of the $8 drinks – for Real.
A 25 year drinks industry expert, Brian has worked on just about every side of the beverage business, specializing in wine & spirits education, staff training, creative consulting, and of course service. He lives and works in Connecticut, where the number of working Somm's is limited, but he hopes through the effort of this site and its related events, that will change.
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