Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mastering CSL: Coffee As A Second Language

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published October 21, 2010] © 2010

This year I’ve made it my goal to master CSL – Coffee as a Second Language.

I don’t have to tell you what a social disadvantage it has been to live in a place with so many good coffee houses and not speak Coffee.

Of course, the main reason I haven’t learned it is that I don’t drink coffee. I love the taste and aroma but the family caffeine sensitivity has my hands shaking before I’ve taken a second sip. However, as I am often reminded, you can get decaf versions of pretty much everything the menu. Although a triple shot espresso decaf would probably defeat the purpose.

While I certainly agree with my friends that coffee houses are an ideal place to meet, I’ve never frequented them enough to really master spoken Coffee. That’s because the menu scares the daylights out of me. The French may not be very tolerant of people who massacre their language but they sound like Barney the happy dinosaur compared to coffee drinkers stuck in line behind someone who does not speak Coffee. The caffeine fiends are ten minutes past needing a fix, the tremors have set in, and anyone who holds them up is in critical danger of being fed into the bean grinder.

Would that I was kidding.

Attempting to avoid becoming a new instant coffee drink if the clientele behind me seems unusually hostile, I tend to smile brightly at the barista and chirp, “I’ll have what that person just had in a decaf.”

Unfortunately, this doesn’t keep them from asking you more questions. Lots more questions. The milk options alone are terrifying. In fact, I think that if you factored all the possible combinations and permutations of coffee drinks, the number would be in the bazillions.

But the problem with spoken Coffee is that it is a language with an unbelievable number of dialects. For example, there’s the Frappuccino-Macchiato dialect from the Sucrose region of Italy. Only serious linguists and/or pre-diabetics really understand it.

And just when Coffee was already an incredibly complicated language, they’ve thrown in Fair Trade, i.e. that the farmers who grew the beans were paid a fair price. Was I born yesterday? I’m sure there are standards for this but the cynic in me still wants to see sworn testimonials from the farmers. Better yet, can I call them in person?

And of course, we now have the option of “organic”. I kind of hate it when they bring up that word because it immediately raises the specter of what’s in the non-organic. Should we be thinking egg farms in Iowa? One thing is clear: if it’s fair traded and organic, we’re going to pay more for it. So I’d just like to know for sure those South American coffee farmers have 401ks and I’m not drinking chicken doots.

But just when you think you’ve miraculously gotten out of the ordering process alive, you discover that when your drink is ready, they sometimes don’t call you by name but by what you ordered. The short hand name of what you ordered. I have no idea what I ordered. I just hope it really IS decaf. And preferably has whipped cream on it. I have let my coffee order get stone cold for fear of taking someone else’s drink by mistake. Because if you think coffee drinkers are cranky being in line behind a non-Coffee speaker, don’t even think what would happen if you accidentally took their vente grande small cap no foam dolce.

My friend Amy’s mother, Toni, has been lobbying her local Starbucks to introduce a new drink, the mocha valium vodka latte. Now this is a drink I could get my head around. I wouldn’t even need this drink in a decaf. A nice simultaneous upper and downer, it just falls off your tongue when you say it. Of course, you might fall on your head after you drink it. But it has the added advantage that within minutes, you don’t care if you speak Coffee or not.

1 comment:

  1. j'adore! another winner, thanks Ing - I especially love your friends idea of the vodka thingy (that's the only word in that sentence that I clearly understood). Let's start a petition,