When you walk into a Starbucks it’s a little like entering another country. Some of the language is “Italianish” and the rest is completely fabricated, yet universally understood by all it’s regular patrons.
Like any new country, when you visit Starbucks for the first time you might be overwhelmed by the cultural gap and the obvious language barrier.
You see, Starbucks drinkers have an acute understanding of this made up ordering system, the terminology, how to conjugate the verbs, and the proper phrasing of the request i.e. size first, then special requirements, then drink type.
The baristas, or should I call them caffeination interpreters, are trained to do far more than make a cappuccino. My barista knows the make, model, and color of my car. When he sees it drive up, he starts my drink. He deduces that if I’m wearing golf or workout clothes I will require my usual to be iced has the appropriate drink ready by the time I hit the door.
He is keenly aware of my standard approach speed and if I seem to be ambling he’ll throw in an extra shot.
But sometimes, even I, a citizen with a green card – or should I say gold card – am shocked by how intricate requests can get. I think some of these drinkers actually believe they’ve learned another language and take an odd pride in this false sense of intelligence.
Today the woman in front of me ordered a tall 2 splenda – extra dry – machiatto – with extra foam – on the fly.
Extra dry? Really? “What is extra dry… just beans? Or does the dryness have something to do with the foam?”
Caffeination interpreter: “No the consistency of the foam is directly correlated to the frothiness.”
Why do I feel like I’m having a conversation with NASA?
And yet, who am I to talk? I know that a standard latte is made at 160°, which would be bad enough, except that I also know that I prefer mine at 140°.
My barista, who writes Jenny from the blog on every cup, actually figured this out while analyzing my drinking habits.
Caffeination interpreter: “I’ve noticed you seem to wait about 8 minutes for your coffee to cool. I think the problem is an over sensitive pallet and I suggest you drop the temp about 20 degrees fahrenheit.”
“Shit, I think in Celcius. I like to pretend I’m European… like Madonna and Gwennie P.
Caffeination interpreter: “There’s no reason to get smart with me. I’m hypothesizing about your needs, I’ll investigate further.”
Soon coffee analyzation and Starbucks interpretation will be something you can major in, like criminal justice. At the very least Bravo will make it into a show, “CSI Starbucks.”
“Everyone step away from the mocha, CSI Starbucks unit (Coffee Scene Investigation) is here.”
“There is nothing to see here, please disperse.”
“What’s seems to be the problem, ma’am?”
Disgruntled Customer: “My mocha is not rich enough, and it’s too wet. I specifically said grande, 18 pump, extra fat, mildly damp, 157° Mochachokeonitccino with extra whip that is dolloped in the shape of a pygmy monkey.”
The area around the cup is taped off and a bit is spilled into a petri dish and run out of the store to a mobile CSI van.
The maverick of the team fearlessly swipes his finger through the java then smells and licks it, as if it’s cocaine. “One more lick for good measure and an extra jolt,” he says as he rubs some across his gums.
“Well your first problem is this is only 16 pumps. It’s also a mere 142°, which if my calculations are correct mean 7 minutes ago when it was made it was 155° and not a degree more. Your other problem was in the call. The cashier/Mayor should know not to call a whip sculpted in the shape of anything other than the Starbuck’s mermaid goddess on our logo, who we in the biz affectionately call Flo.”
Disgruntled Customer: “Like flow of the coffee or the ocean?”
“Ma’am, I’m not at liberty to discuss Flo with civilians. Let’s just leave it at that.”
“Look, we’re gonna take this downtown to the Captain, but just for the record Cappy Joe, or Cuppa Joe as we like to call him, is the best. He’ll have this coffee and a full report back to you by day’s end. Please enjoy a maximum of 2 hours free internet access in the mean time.”
“And don’t forget to try one of our new hot breakfast sandwiches.”