Sunday, May 3, 2009

Competitor meets hepcat


The emotionally elusive barista from my workplace coffee stand, remember him? His job was outsourced and he will probably quit rather than join the new vendor. It's terrible, it really is. He made a special effort to tell the guy in front of me in line how much he will miss him. I may not be around here much longer, and I want you know that your grumpy mug always cheered up my morning, man. I get kind of excited, naturally approaching my turn with great anticipation, sure that the crisis had opened the emotional floodgates and that I would finally get the connection I had so craved from him. Finally, I would have my MOMENT of RECOGNITION. I'll really miss you, Nora, he would say. You have brightened many of my days these six long years. But? Nothing. Just the coffee. So of course I get all needy because that's what I do and all I'm really going to miss you guys, it really sucks, I'm sorry, you are a big part of my day. He kind of just looked at me funny, pretty sure he rolled his eyes at his colleague, and I slinked away with my coffee and felt more terrible.

Bah! Bah for the recession! Bah for outsourcing! Bah for the barista-shaped hole in my soul!

And now for a completely different coffee shop--then Jeff comes home from a cafe near our house, (Fuel Coffee, yum yum, where I wrote most of my dissertation, yet where I am not a regular and know no one) whose owner has published a book! About coffee culture in Seattle! I thought you would probably like it, he's all. It's called Tall Skinny Bitter: Notes from the Center of Coffee Culture. It seems great, a piece of history, seriously. I feel cool just owning it. But right there in the first few pages, there I see it--and my heart starts to race. "Who's Who in the Coffee Shop: Customers." Have they found me out? Am I IN THE COFFEE BOOK?

The answer is yes, of course. Alongside the "regular," the "customer who used to be or thinks he or she is a barista," and the "name-dropper,"--and my favorite, "tall nonfat vanillas: admit it, you can spot these folks a mile away"--there I am! THE COMPETITOR, it says. Vies for being the most regular--and wants recognition for it.

I start to flush, feel a bit warm. There I am, right there in the coffee book. But there's more. On the same page I see "Who's Who in the Coffee Shop: Baristas"! Alongside "morning person" and "passionate about coffee" and "I have a degree and can't find a job," there I see him. HEPCAT, it says. Classic barista, probably a musician/singer/artist, sometimes filled with charming angst. Of course.

At least I'm not with the tall nonfat vanillas--my drink (Americano) was deemed the THIRD most "serious," after only the doppio and the cappucino. And I drink NO-ROOM Americano, yo. So I have at least some of the recognition I need, for today. I am whole.

Completely unrelated to my disturbing customer behavior, apparently there is a THING about macchiato. You should never, ever order a macchiato when what you really want is a caramel latte, because then it means that you have been to Starbucks who took the name macchiato, which is supposed to be "two shots of espresso marked with steamed milk" and plopped it onto their caramel latte (and they don't even use caramel SAUCE with that, just caramel syrup ick). The end.

21 comments:

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Hmmm, now I have to figure out what it means that my husband gets an Americano with room.

I freely admit that I don't actually like coffee--I just like Starbucks. Tall nonfat mocha, one-pump chocolate, light whip. I'm sure that's wimpy. Oh well.

All Adither said...

Damn, I should've named my blog Tall Skinny Bitter!

smalltownmom said...

My coffeemaker chugs out a pot every morning. I drink it black. I am so not hep. And I like it that way.

phd in yogurtry said...

Walk of shame. The last time I was at a Starbucks, I ordered skinny vanilla latte. It was my first time, promise, but I might just have to do it again. I am in the book under wimpistra.

J and J Acres said...

Nothing's worse than a barista who doesn't appreciate you showing up every morning. :D

Mary Alice said...

hummmm. I grind my own beans and brew my own. What does that make me? Cheap?

kirida said...

I have this book at home. I will have to flip through it again. And sadly, I am a tall nonfat vanilla person, but that's because I'm terrible at orders and it was the only thing I knew how to order in college. I loved how they chided those caramel macchiato orders. So true!

planetnomad said...

Ha! I want to read this book. I am inordinately pleased to learn that my 'wimpy' drink is the second most serious and that my regular drink is most serious. I also like Americanos, but I say "with room" so they don't add as much water. Are we all so impressed now? YAAY.

But your elusive barista makes me so tired. I have known too many of him. He is not original. You, now. If I ever write a book about coffee culture, which is looking more and more unlikely (I was just in a desert town this weekend and there was a cafe that served warm milk and instant coffee...ICK), I will be sure that you're in it!

Phil said...

My standard drink (featured in my sidebar) is the macchiato. I find that if you order "doppio macchiato" or "espresso macchiato" at Starbucks, you'll get the minimalist drink and not the bloated faux-sundae. Other places, it's a litmus test.

I'll have to check out the book. I saw it reviewed a couple of weeks ago. I don't usually do Fuel cuz, well, I'd have to cross 45th. And Chocolati's hot chocolate is Mrs. P's personal embalming fluid.

Mrs. G. said...

Laughing at Angie's comment.

I'm sorry for your loss.

Rima said...

Does that book have an entry for the lady with a laptop who orders one small regular coffee to go, pays in change, then stays at the good table with the reading lamp for four hours? That's me!

Tricia said...

OMG! I'm too cheap to buy the book because I spend all my money in coffee shops. Please cut my picture out of that book and send it to me. I know I'm in there.

Dani in NC said...

I am your standard cup o' joe gal. I prefer the coffee at my local Circle K convenience store over Starbucks, and the cashier there talks to me every day. She calls me Honey Bun :-).

justhay said...

Oh no. No more barista posts? :(

apathy lounge said...

Yeah...I don't like coffee either. My family of origin thinks this is strange.

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