I was never a coffee drinker until I tasted the magic of Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. When I was young, my dad used to take the family out for supper and it almost always was to Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf at a neighbourhood mall. Back then, life was much simpler and we needn’t have to worry about traffic, rising costs of living, and undesirable folk (mostly snatch thieves and kidnappers).
My usual order used to be iced blended mocha frappuccino (more chocolate than coffee). My parents would always have something with a dash of espresso. One day, I decided to try some. Oh, I will never forget that initial bittersweet hot liquid that slid down my throat. I swore that coffee must be the vilest beverage ever, second to wine. Yes, I don’t have a taste for wine. Champagne, maybe, but not wine. But that didn’t stop me from stealing sips from my mother’s cup of coffee. I knew she made some herself at home but I never had the curiosity strong enough to want to try.
Now I’m an avid coffee drinker. I don’t do the all-black Americanos though. I still like mine milky, silky and smooth, like latte and cappuccino. I can hardly tell the difference between a latte, piccolo and flat white, because as long as either type I order gives me the same amount of satisfaction, then it doesn’t matter which one I have for breakfast that day. Except the Americanos. My husband takes those. He can stomach the harsh bitter sting when he sips the beverage. Amazing!
It’s not so much of the types of coffee that matters. It’s more of what it does for me on a daily basis. And how different it is if baristas don’t take the time to properly brew it. I didn’t have a specific time for coffee when I first started taking it. I could have it at any time of the day. Then I learnt that caffeine keeps drowsiness at bay, and decided to have it for breakfast. Thus began my caffeinated journey all throughout my college years and into my early working years. Now I can’t function properly without my cup of coffee. Once I’ve had my daily shot, I’m cool for the rest of the day, my productivity stabilizes and I’m not as grouchy and grumpy as when I first get out of bed.
Then I realized how much strength and flavour coffee has depending on how much effort a barista puts into crafting it. I’ve had nasty baristas, quiet ones, chatty ones and the know-it-all types serving me coffee all throughout my early twenties and into my late twenties. That’s almost ten years of coffee. You might call me a late bloomer on that. For the different types of baristas injecting caffeine into my veins, I’ve had my share of flat-chested brews to muscle-massed concoctions that keep me up all night long.
There isn’t a positive correlation between type of barista and coffee strength though. It depends on luck that day when I decide to have some. It could be the nicest barista on earth, so sweet you’d get diabetes, but she woke up on a bad hair day and dishes out the worst kind of coffee you can imagine! No milk, no sugar. Just water that looks brown. It’s possible. Then you get the sourpuss who never bothered to smile, but on the day her fiance proposes to her (wait, how did she even get a boyfriend with that face?), she prepares such a wonderful cup of paradise and heaven that you wished your coffee could last forever.
The reason why I’m talking about coffee is because of my experience with a barista at a McCafe outlet yesterday. She was everyone’s sourpuss. She doesn’t smile. She doesn’t look at you when you’re talking to her. She doesn’t greet you. She just brews your cuppa and shoves it at you. Wow, talk about customer service with a smile! You get none of those, just your coffee which you take to work. And when you drink it, you feel that the coffee was as flat as the service. There wasn’t any of that roasted coffee beans aroma, and the taste was weak and bland. But this morning, my usual smiling and greet-worthy barista was behind the counter and my coffee today had so much ‘oomph’ I wished I had ordered another one to go.
Then again, one could say it is probably a psychological phenomenon. It could be what our minds want us to perceive reality. The barista is grumpy, hence your coffee sucks. The barista is cheery, hence your coffee will be the best there could ever be. It’s all in the mind. Or is it?