I was delighted when I attended a conference in Sydney recently, to discover that there wouldn't be urns of stale coffee waiting to be dispensed into ghastly styrene cups at break times, or even barely palatable ground and filtered coffee, which has often been sitting for hours and become bitter and decidedly unpleasant. No! The organisers clearly understood the needs of the group and had arranged for four high-tech, mobile coffee machines, staffed with keen-eyed and enthusiastic baristas, to wait on attendees. The beans were freshly roasted, then ground as needed, the milk (your choice of full cream, low fat or soy) heated and frothed as required, to become a welcome cappuccino. Yeehaaaaa!
|Not quite conference coffee, but close enough!|
However, not everyone was happy.
I was eagerly waiting for my order when I became aware of a tense, some might even say terse, exchange between a barista and a conference attendee, an American woman who clearly wasn't happy with the beverage she had been given.
"This isn't cawfee, I want regular cawfee."
"Yes, that's what I've made you."
"No it's not. I just want cawfee."
The look of complete confusion on the barista's face would have been amusing in a different place. You could see her thinking "You asked for coffee, we made you coffee - how could that be wrong?"
My attempt at explaining the differences in terminology, strength and taste were met with an icy chill - clearly the woman needed her kind of coffee NOW!
The cogs in the American woman's brain were apparently struggling with lack of caffein. She began a few sentences, then finally spluttered: "I want American cawfee".
A look of comprehension "Oh you mean a long black!"
Oh deary me - this was not going well.
The poor American couldn't bring herself to repeat the words, such is the power of cultural taboos and inappropriate language with its racist overtones. I'm not sure what she was visualising, but I doubt it was a cup of coffee.
By now her husband had joined her and taken his cup of coffee - aka cappuccino - with a look of disgust. It appears that they hadn't realised that simply ordering a "coffee" will lead to confusion and that in the hurly burly of the noisy morning break, and without further clarification, that a cappuccino would be produced with a professional flourish.
So, it goes both ways, it seems that on the subject of coffee, the differences in our expectations and tastes far outweigh the similarities and that many of us return home to our respective countries with tales of undrinkable coffee.
My previous spluttering post about the American excuse for coffee is here.