What Your Coffee Says About You
Cappuccino-sippers of the world, unite! Your existence is under threat. This week it emerged that Starbucks – pan-galactic vendor of coffee-themed warm milk products to time-pressed urban professionals – has begun to phase out the cappuccino from its menus.
Once seen as the height of sophistication (in 1964, perhaps), the combination of espresso and foamed milk has failed to see off the competition from the latte, the flat white and the drip filter (the johnny-come-lately of the coffee world). The company confirmed that it had ceased to list the cappuccino in its heartlands of San Francisco, New York and Seattle (the site of the first Starbucks).
Where America goes in terms of chocolate sprinkles and almond milk, I’m afraid Britain usually follows – and it may only be a matter of time before Costa and Pret A Manger follow suit. We can only hope that mainland Europe holds out a little longer.
What did the cappuccino do to deserve this fate? According to one former Starbucks employee, it’s less a la mode than the stronger and more velveteen flat white and a lot fiddlier than the latte. Apparently, baristas have always struggled with the foam. Which is strange, because every single cafe employee in Italy can make them perfectly without feeling the need to call themselves “baristas”, either.
In truth, the cappuccino has only ever attained its full majesty in its homeland, where it is served in the morning (never after dinner!), in a nice china cup (never a paper beaker!) and remains a gossamer little treat.
According to Dr Ramani Durvasala, a Los Angeles-based psychologist and author of You Are WHY You Eat, cappuccino-drinkers will take the loss badly. She concluded in a no-doubt highly rigorous study last year those who order cappuccinos are “controlling” and “overly sensitive”. Unlike instant- coffee drinkers (“laid-back”), black-coffee imbibers (“purist”) and latte suckers (“neurotic”).
But observation at my local coffee emporium reveals it’s a little more complicated than that. You can tell a lot about someone by their relationship with their daily cup.
The Diet Coke of the hot- beverage world and the default choice of the slightly harassed mother/career woman. It promises the maternal comfort of warm milk and a gentle caffeine bump, without the calories.
The joke is, of course, on them as the evidence now suggests that whole milk is less fattening than skimmed (it’s to do with the way sugar is absorbed, apparently). All those wasted years!
The choice of the well-respected man who will never rise beyond middle management. Once opted for the gingerbread version – a bit silly, really!
Soya flat white
The tell-tale sign of the lactose-intolerant, gluten-spurning orthorexic. If you do happen to suffer from any of these afflictions, the dignified order is black coffee.
Almond milk flat white
As above, but also has a large Instragram following, a line of yoga-wear and a bestselling cook book.
Erm… can I just have… a normal coffee…oh, fiddlesticks, what is it called these days?
You can hardly blame the upstanding pensioner for their moment of panic as the milk machines hiss and the time-pushed Eastern European workers hammer spent grounds from the espresso pods and fail to understand their order.
Unfortunately, “coffee” ceased to exist around 2003. What you’re after is “white filter” (a sort of brownish dishwater) or “white Americano” (espresso topped up with too much water).
“Builders’ coffee” may be hard to find outside greasy spoons and church coffee mornings, but when a typical cup costs pounds 2.30 and involves someone writing your name on a paper cup in felt tip, there’s a lot to be said for a stimulant that can be prepared in five seconds for about 2p. A discreet kettle and a jar of Gold Blend is the choice of the deadline-surfer.
If you are eight, fine. If you are any older, please examine your life priorities.
The choice of the intellectual sophisticate.
Coffee taken to the heights of purity… offset by the fact that it cost pounds 3.95, takes years and will come served with east London attitude.
Cold press with butter
This is actually a thing. Future historians will draw terrible conclusions from this.
You don’t get out much, do you?
Starbucks promises that you can still get a cappuccino if you really want one. You just have to go off menu. The same principle applies if you want to order a small coffee. The listed sizes are “grande” (big), “medio” (too big) and “venti” (way too big). Clever people order “short”. It costs less and is perfectly sufficient.
Meanwhile, as the fashionable bits of every city are overrun by identikit indie coffee joints staffed by Australian hipsters, Starbucks itself starts to feel like a sane, even faintly subversive option.
The “short cappuccino” thus paradoxically is the most sophisticated thing you can possibly order. So the cycle begins again.