I always wonder about those people at Starbucks who stand at the counter and hold forth for two or three minutes about their special order. “I want a venti iced decaf latte, half skim and half soy, filled 62 percent of the way, with no more than one inch of whipped cream. Oh, and make that a mocha. No, forget the mocha. Just iced decaf latte with half skim and half soy. Got that?” The barista, being well trained in barista etiquette, is nodding politely, but on the inside has to be screaming: “SERIOUSLY?”
Some people just can’t make up their minds. The person above may not simply be demanding and confused. He or she may have a deep seated need to be cared for, paid attention to, or, maybe even pampered. I’m saying this in jest, but these people may be better off at home, making their own drinks with their very own espresso machine.
They say watching how someone treats the waiter can tell you a lot about how he or she will behave in a relationship. But what can we learn about people from their coffee orders? I interviewed a rather savvy former barista to add her insights to my professional assessment of this revealing process we all undergo—usually daily—to figure out the best way to get caffeine into our bodies.
Let’s have some fun with this.
Light and sweet.
Adult wannabes: the cream and sugar population can’t really handle the bitter taste of coffee—or the bitterness of life. They would love it if they could eat dessert for every meal with no consequences, either physical or social. However, these childlike individuals tend to be a lot of fun to be around. They see the world as a glorious playground and every glass—or cup of coffee—is half full.
Light, no sugar.
Charmers, all of them. They look you right in the eye and can spend an afternoon whiling away the time with you discussing economics, fashion trends, esoteric musical bands, or stamp collecting. Interesting and intermittently focused, the cream-in-the-coffee set may or may not be reliable, but any time you spend together will be worth it.
Sweet and dark.
What can I say? Still waters run deep. At first glance, they seem to be drinking black coffee (see below), but that touch of sweetness adds mystery, though not much subtlety. The black-with-sugar coffee drinker may well drink the stuff all day long—so watch out. A serial caffeine drinker will be, by 4:00 p.m., wired for sound. Just be wary….
The black coffee drinker is a go-getter. This person says, “Get out of my way. I’m a busy person. I don’t have time to put milk and sugar in my coffee.” All business, the black coffee drinker must be coaxed into relaxing, otherwise when the work day is over, the laundry, dishes, scrapbooking, fly-tying, weight-lifting-while-watching-CNN part of the day starts.
Don’t judge a decaf drinker. Chances are, this poor person is a recovering caff addict. Or is a health nut. Or has high blood pressure. Maybe all three. All previous variations on the coffee drinker can be applied to how a decaf drinker takes his or her coffee.
This is serious stuff. The redeye (a cup of coffee with a shot of espresso) might indicate a black coffee drinker on steroids. This person, whether the redeye is sweetened with sugar or cream, is probably pretty hard working and driven, a chronic insomniac, and a phenomenal multitasker. The redeye indicates a person content to be driven and fired up.
Now we’re talking not just driven… But obsessed. This person has spent a lifetime cultivating a serious caffeine addiction and has to keep upping the ante just to stay on an even keel. The blackeye (cup of coffee with two shots) you see being ordered at 7:45 a.m. at the local boutique coffee shop is—trust me on this—only the first of several this person will order, and consume, throughout the day. What does the blackeye drinker have to take at night to reverse the process? You probably don’t want to know.
There is a good chance this person is French or Italian, in which case drinking espresso is totally normal and yet strangely sexy. If you see an American ordering espresso, we’re talking anything from charmingly cosmopolitan to a totally pretentious city-slicker/serial dater with maybe a shady financial history. So, depending on what side of the equation someone falls on, you would either have a blast going to the opera and picnicking on the top of skyscrapers at sunset, or you’d be steering clear.
The frappuccino is a luscious, festive way to deliver caffeine to the body. A person who orders a frappuccino on a regular basis is likely to be freewheeling and fun-loving. The frappuccino drinker does not care what others think and has a true sense of adventure. Being with him or her is like being on vacation every day of the year, drinking milkshakes with coffee in them!
This beverage, which I think was invented to meet the demands of non-coffee drinkers who like going to coffee shops, is a truly self-indulgent treat. People who order it really like to treat themselves, indulge themselves, and actively seek ways to avoid pain and increase pleasure. Of course, we all avoid pain and seek pleasure—within reason. So a mild to moderate macchiato drinker is in touch with his or her needs, wants, and desires. An excessive macchiato drinker is over-the-top self-absorbed…maybe even narcissistic.
The person ordering tea in a coffee shop is either confused, British, or a renegade. There are two basic ways to take tea: milk and sugar (or honey, my fave) and black, with or without lemon. Warm and cozy (the former) or uptight (the latter). If either come with a sexy English accent, who cares?
You no doubt realize that more than fifty percent of the above is just me having fun. But there is a germ of truth embedded in every stereotype. The takeaway from this fun-with-coffee-orders is this: pay attention. Look around you at people and seek to understand them, their wonderful uniqueness, their peccadilloes (we all have them), the way they strive and seek, try and triumph, dare and do. Go sit at Starbucks for an hour or so…just people watching, and see what “truths” you come up with about your fellow travelers. And remember you have something in common with every person there—whether it is a fondness for caffeine or something much more special. What could it be?
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