Who would have thought a drink could change so radically in a decade or two?
You’ll be calling me a Luddite and stuck in my ways (the truth always hurts), but what the flarking doowogglers has happened to coffee?
When I were a lad, not only was it all fields around here, but coffee was coffee. You could have milk, or you could have sugar, or you could have both. Or neither. Those were the choices, like telly.
But nowadays to order a coffee is to enter a surreal and arcane world of perturbation, confusion and despair from which you will be lucky to emerge with your sanity intact. It is quite bewildering. You thought The Wire was confusing? Lost in Lost? Try keeping track of coffee in the tenties. The quest for a decent cup of coffee is increasingly becoming as lengthy and fruitless as a boa constrictor.
Let us consider this document.
Yes that’s right. A Wikihow article on How To Order At Starbucks. It has 12 basic points, 13 examples and 11 ’tips’.
Ladies and Gentlemen, there are many madnesses in our modern world. They defy analysis or reasoned thought: The Iraq War; The Continued Employment of Noel Edmonds; Farmville.
But this one really takes the almond biscotto.
Here’s how to order a coffee:
- Go to a cafe.
- Ask for a coffee.
- If you like milk in it, add the words ‘with milk please’.
- If you are in any way tempted to add any of the following words to your coffee order, seek medical help immediately: skinny, tall, quad, venti, iced, syrup, frappuccino, sham-a-lam-a-ding-u-cino.
Try not to do it in the wrong order or you might confuse your ‘barista’ (although you’d have thought with all those years studying a complex subject like law they’d be able to understand a simple coffee order).
You might want to practice it a few times with a friend before you take the plunge and do it for real. There’s a lot to remember.
Luckily, though, and thanks to some clever Antipodeans a couple of decades ago, you may not have to worry about COPS (Coffee Ordering Paranoia Syndrome) any more, because I think we can now call off the search for the perfect cup of coffee.
Make mine a Flat White.
Apparently ‘invented’ in New Zealand in the early eighties, it has taken nearly twenty years to gain leverage in this fair town, but it is now, so I’m led to believe, the beverage of choice for the discerning cafficionado.
The secret of this novelty elixir?
Less milk than in a latte.
Now why didn’t I think of that?
Oh, silly me, I did. It’s the coffee I’ve been making at home FOR THE LAST TWENTY-FIVE YEARS.
Otherwise known as ‘coffee with some milk’.
I’m clearly in the wrong business.
Now obviously it’s easy for me to stand on the sidelines and hurl abuse at some of the largest and most successful corporations in the world, who have, with no help from me, mastered the art of marketing the bleedin’ obvious. And of course they have very clever and expensive coffee machines that heat the milk to just the right temperature to render your beverage undrinkably hot for forty minutes, at which point (and not before) it becomes undrinkably cold.
I am, however, English.
So it naturally behooves me, at this point, to be a bit embarrassed, shuffle from foot to foot, and offer a peace token.
In the interests, therefore, of international co-operation and compromise, and with the generosity of spirit for which we Anglo-Armenians have become renowned the world over, I offer, free, gratis, and for nothing, my new invention:
The Caffe Arty-Fartay.
Here’s how to make it:
Tinker around with different combinations of coffee and milk, thinking up ever more ludicrous names for them, until you disappear up your own bottom in a puff of finely grated chocolate powder (70% of course).
I thank you.
Next week: Dressing Emperors - A Twelve-Step Plan.