(Yes, it’s a riff off of this piece. Because sadly, you’ve all been here.)
1. The lone barista/employee doesn’t look up when you come in. For at least 30 seconds. Even though you’re the only one in the place. And the bell on the entry jingled. They’re too busy closing up for the day an hour ahead of the time posted to be interested in helping you.
2. You give your order from twenty feet away. Because now that they’ve acknowledged your presence, they stay rooted to the spot like a deer on the side of a section road, unsure of which direction to sprint. They also don’t sound particularly interested in your desires.
3. The hip slouch. Oh god. Yes, you know the move, going from a full upright position to body language that can only be one step away from them muttering the “Really?” that is so obviously flittering through their head. Yes, really, I said “cappuccino.” Deal with it, it’s a drink. With espresso.
4. They reflexively look up at the menu board over their shoulder. Because it’s not on their mental list of popular beverages
… why? Why, oh why? so they have to see if it comes in more than one size. (Which… it shouldn’t, but that’s a story for another day that’s more suited to actually being a self-proclaimed coffee snob.)
5. When asked if they have whole milk, they reply, “Well, 2%.” I do not think that means what you think it means. Two percent will have to do, thank you.
6. “That’s the one with foam, right?” The question is offered indifferently. It’s very difficult to not roll the eyes at this point, because frankly, a cappuccino is a more basic coffee house drink than any frappawhoziewhatsis or chocolate swizzle sweetiepie latte could ever hope to be. (Not that there’s anything wrong with those.) It’s espresso, and milk. But a lot harder to make right, when you care. That doesn’t seem to be an issue here.
7. The, shall we say, “barista” immediately begins steaming the milk. Well, warming it up, trying to stretch it, I guess. The motions are there, but the sounds of microsteaming milk are muffled by the repeating piano
elevator music adult contemporary CD wafting around the store. Quite likely the massive amounts of big-bubbled foam is drowning it all out, because Noise.
8. When asking about the availability of sweetener (don’t judge my husband, he’s not a snob), am told that they have white chocolate. I’ll just leave this here.
9. “Barista” has to search for the sugar packets on the counter. Pretty basic stuff for non-coffee snobs, but the inability to understand the words “Splenda” or even “Sweet and Low” makes the probability of an actual “cappuccino” drop significantly.
10. No actual shot of espresso is pulled. No grinding, no tamping, no lovely tiger striping. Just… a metal pitcher of, I guess, espresso. It is, after all, an hour before closing time. We wouldn’t want to dirty up the portafilter for the only customer in the place. And fresh only counts with the lettuce on a pannini, one would hope.
11. Pouring the shot into the milk. Perhaps it’s a try at reverse latte art… but it doesn’t work. The big-bubbled foam just won’t hold up the mean old espresso.
12. Sleeveless to-go cups are set on the counter. Because when I say it’s “for here,” what I mean is I want to pay for a temporary experience that I can have in the comfort of my car as well. I guess when you only have a hammer, every drink is a nail.
13. “Barista” glances at the sugar packets on the counter and sez as an afterthought: “Oh. I guess you can put that in.” Okay then.
See, you don’t have to be a coffee snob to know what’s wrong with this (composite) picture. Aside from the given of basic customer service skills, when you patronize a coffee house/shop/spot, one that goes to the expense of actually buying a commercial espresso machine as opposed to anything made by Keurig, you have expectations of being able to get a decent drink, at the very least.
Instead, it’s frustrating to measure your experiences at many small town — or not-so-small-town — coffee places by interpersonal interactions first, and the quality of the beverages last. No wonder this particular culture is creeping into North Dakota at a snail’s pace.
We can do better. And some places do. We *heart* them.
(The capp? Chalky, thin, and without any coffee flavor whatsoever. But in this case, I digress.)