Calling out coffee drinks
It was my shift. My morning at the controls of the elevated four group La Marzocco espresso machine. It was an espresso bar as theatre stage, a relic from the days before Starbucks customized and cranked out location after location. It took two steps up from behind the bar to reach the controls of the unit, which I then handled during the four hour, 800 customer rushes on Saturday mornings. However busy it was, one did feel safe up there, far from the madding crowd.
I recall one fine spring day when the entire population of Lincoln Park had decided to get a coffee from the new coffee place called Starbucks. This was 1991.The madhouse that was a Saturday morning at a pioneering Starbucks store was something to behold. This was not the time nor the place for latte art. But seriously, it seemed like the line would never end and it wore you down.
Calling out a drink incorrectly
One customer sticks with me all these years later. I remember calling out the drink as tall cocoa when I knew I had put a shot of espresso in the cup, right on top of the chocolate, swirled it, then slowly added steam milk. Then topped it with the whipped cream. It was a tall mocha.
But I called out the correct drink incorrectly. The customer would not take it even after I promised it was the correct drink, just my mistake calling it out.
I insisted. She refused.
I promised. She refused.
The doors kept opening only to let even more customers in.
I remade the drink, called it correctly, looking directly at her, and she left happy.
This encounter sticks with me all these years later because I knew I was right. The customer didn’t believe me because of what I called the cup of coffee.
What I accidentally called a cup of coffee is mild compared to what the owners of taverns and alehouses of Restoration England called a cup of coffee. They were trying to stop folks from drinking this new, customer stealing drink called coffee.
Calling out coffee in the 1600’s
They came up with some great derogatory names for coffee in an attempt to stop their customers from leaving the alcohol serving establishments. The new beverage called coffee was quickly gaining popularity and the coffee houses becoming full of their former customers. Maybe not as full as my Starbucks on that Saturday morning. But too full for the tavern owners.
Below are some examples of the ways they described a cup of coffee. I found these amusing and revealing on their own when I read them. Hope you do as well.
My customer was lucky I didn’t’ make them one of these instead.
- warm water boiled with burnt beans
- hot hell breathe
- boiled soot
- made with the scent of old crusts, and shreds of shoe leather burnt and beaten to a powder
- black, hasty, hell-burnt liquor
- syrup of soot
- a Satanic tipple
- a horse pond liquor
Change is hard for everyone. The fear of the tavern owners you referenced, is typical for many people looking on the outside at something new or rapidly changing. The way you managed the customer during the rush and acknowledging that making a new drink would be the best course of action, is, of course, the “customer is always right” perspective. Thanks for sharing! Always good to go down memory lane.