Ordering a coffee used to be simple: you asked for white or black. There was also what we called ‘expresso’: coffee frothed up with hot milk, usually mixed half and half.
Then we became sophisticated, with filter coffee from freshly ground beans. More recently there were cafetieres. However, tiny grains pressed to the bottom somehow got into your drink.
Now there are cappuccinos, lattes, mochas, flat whites and more – all dispensed by an irritatingly noisy machine. An expresso now is a shot of continental-style strong coffee.
The closest to my preferred coffee (a gold blend taken white at home) is americano. I used to order it with ‘cold milk on the side’. However, often it was so strong that, even when pouring in all the milk, it remained the colour of the Mersey while also, by then, being as cold.
A better result, I’ve since found, comes by asking for warm milk, then I can weaken but still not chill it.
“I’d like half coffee, half hot milk,” She Who Knows insists to me, when I’m about to order our drinks.
If I say this to the young person serving, often also a foreigner, they stare, mystified.
“Like a latte, you mean?” some say, “Or a flat white, maybe?” No, we’ve tried those. She wants a coffee, half full then topped up with hot milk and, preferably, also a bit frothy.
If you ask them to leave it half empty and give us some hot milk, they usually serve it two-thirds full. Then I have to take a mouthful of boiling black coffee for her to get the mix right.
Sometimes we ask for a ‘one-shot americano’, sounding like a desperate gun-slinger, with uncertain results.
Best solution, though, is simply ‘a pot of coffee for two, with jug of warm milk’. We’ll mix it quietly ourselves, thank you.
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