“Coffee?” As somebody who doesn’t drink the stuff, whenever this one-word entreaty pops up on my phone, I’m filled with dread. Now the ball’s in my court. What should I do? Just what is the etiquette of coffee meet-up culture and why isn’t there a detailed instruction manual?
What time is coffee time? Do doctors, lawyers and start-up hipsters all take coffee at the same time of day? Can I pick somewhere near my office or should it be close to their place – or on neutral ground in between? Would Starbucks be a faux pas? Is Pacific Coffee gauche? Does Coffee Academics make me a snob?
With a meeting place eventually set, it’s on arrival that the real ordeal begins: actually ordering a cup of coffee. This should be easy, but it’s incredibly complicated.
Type of roast? Blonde, medium or dark? Caffeinated or decaffeinated? Ethiopian beans? Guatemalan or Kenyan? Soy milk, almond milk, semi, full? Frappé or latte? Mocha? Caramel? Coconut? Vanilla? Nitro? (NITRO?) Flat white? Espresso ... single or double? Small, medium or large? (OK, I can handle that last part.)
Standing in line, the stylish type at the front of the queue orders a triple venti, half-sweet, non-fat, caramel macchiato. Next up is Mr Grande-Quad-Non-Fat-One-Pump-No-Whip-Mocha (now I know I’m out of my depth). Someone once told me there are 80,000 coffee combinations, but right now that seems too few.
And now it’s my turn to order and the barista is hurrying me along – she’s a busy person, no time for dawdlers, and the queue is growing. Fortunately, my coffee date does not suffer from a weird psychological disorder and is content with a simple latte grande. The worst is over. Or is it?
I’m asked to give a name. Do I give my name or my date’s name? Should I wait at the counter or sit down and listen for the name being called? (If it’s my name, I’m programmed to respond; if it’s not, I’m not.)
Will someone bring the coffee to me? If they do, will they be annoyed that I didn’t collect it?
All of this is, no doubt, second nature to coffee lovers, but for those of us who don’t partake, it’s a minefield.
So, coffee? No thanks. I don’t do coffee. I could, however, murder a gin and tonic.