Saturday, 22 December 2007

Frothing About Froth

What should the froth/liquid ratio be in a good cappuccino? Is ‘a good cappuccino’ a oxymoron or does it only become so when we change it to ‘a good Starbucks cappuccino’?

These are the somewhat unexpected questions I find myself asking after a day on the front lines of the Christmas sales. We made it home, leaving the field of battle with only moderate lesions. Behind us there were a few isolated scenes of destruction wherever Judy did decide to tread. Some days I fear she’s more elbow than woman. Presents have been bought for our nearest and dearest. I tried my best for all you regular readers, though I fear that some of your comments didn’t get through in time. It was unfortunate that I couldn’t check my email on my iPhone due to an issue of incompatibility between my gloves and the touch screen.

The highlight of my day was an argument I managed to start at the local Starbucks where I refused to accept a cup of their milky java which contained 70% froth and 30% liquid. It amazes me when I do complain, being on the whole a rather placid man. I would say the Christmas spirit brought the best out of me but I like to think it’s because I’ve been reading A.A. Gill’s ‘The Angry Island’. It has encouraged me to become more overt in my displays of disappointment. Not for me, this hypothesis that we’re a nation of people who suppress their anger and then go and invent new and exciting types of lagging. There are no trips down the Nile because I couldn’t tell my wife that I don’t like the colour of her curtains.

Instead, mug in hand, I stormed the serving counter and demanded action.

‘Excuse me,’ I said, ‘I wouldn’t normally do this but I’ve been reading A.A. Gill’s “The Angry Isle” which has encouraged me to be more overt in my displays of disappointment. This cappuccino is more froth than milk.’

The serving assistants looked at me as though I’d asked them to run my cup through a battery of highly scientific tests to detect neutrinos. After one of those long moments in which the world seems to stand still, in silence, one of them gathered the general gist of what I was saying.

‘Cappachino is supposed to be half froth.’ she said, her eyes as empty of wits as the mug was devoid of dairy product. 'They all vary quite a bit.'

I looked at her and smiled. ‘The average human IQ is supposed to be 100 but I sure this fact didn't stop one's mother feeling a great sense of disappointment when it was recognised that we fell below that.’

She was surprisingly quick. ‘There’s no need to be rude,’ she said. ‘It’s not my fault that you don’t know your coffee.’

‘I don’t know it because I’ve yet to have been introduced to it.’

‘Well,’ she replied, picking up the jug of milk and topping up my cup. 'Nobody else seems to have a problem.'

‘I bet they don't,’ I said, darkly. ‘It’s this kind of shoddy treatment that makes me long for less professionalism in the catering service.’

And that, I think, is a truth of our consumer society. We have the perception that things improve because coffee shops have better decor and a more varied menu. Yet the identikit façades mask highly evolved organisms that put the customers’ needs a distant second to profit. Froth is the battleline where we stand nose to nose. They will know the exact froth to coffee ratio that ensures that 9 in 10 people don't complain. If they can sell half a cup of froth, that’s 9 half-cups of milk they save themselves. Transfer that to every Starbucks across the land and they must be saving millions. I fear for the milkmen. Starbucks must account for the majority of those notes left out in the morning that read, ‘No milk today, thank you’.

I think I made a difference today. Gill has clearly changed my attitude and my life. Though whether I was right to subsequently buy two collections of his essays is yet to be determined. There is only so much change that Judy will accept and what that cantankerous / placid ratio might be is much harder to judge.

10 comments:

letmerephrasethat.com said...

Well done on making it out of the shops alive and well done to Judy for 'getting stuck in' as it were.

Not being a coffee drinker myself, I can't help but feel like I've been saved from the tyranny of small grandes (I'm not sure how to do accents on the Mac yet), large tall ones or whatever preposterous names they give coffee servings.

However, and not being a drinker of alcohol either, I'd like to think the ratio of froth to liquid would be similar to that of the ratio between a pint of Guinness and the head it produces. Perhaps slightly more froth considering the proportional differences.

A fair theory?

Gorilla Bananas said...

Gill? Good name for a fish, I'd say. I'd like to put him in a desert for a day and see what he says about coffee. He'd happily lick the moisture off frogs.

Titch said...

Dick I am disappointed in you. I thought you had a touch of class and would know never to drink coffee with milk. If you ever want to truly savour a cup of the dark stuff just follow my recipe for the perfect cup of coffe...
2 heaped tablespoons of Nescafe
7 level teaspoons of sugar
4 sachets of Nestle CoffeeMate.
Boiling water.
Never ,ever add milk, it spoils the true taste and flavour of the bean.
By the way Dick , did you manage to bag me an Elf?

Richard Madeley said...

Writing this with one eye already asleep. That early rise has wiped me out. However, before I crawl into bed:

LMRT, see my comment to Titch before about my drinking coffee. I don't drink myself, despite what you might read in the papers. I think froth in general is highly overrated. It's another way the government controls us.

Gorilla, perceptive comment. Having read a little of his journalism, I wouldn't be surprised if he hasn't already tried licking the moisture off frogs, and indeed toads.

Titch, I rarely drink coffee, though I love it. It leaves me a bit crazy, which is why I have to have it quite weak. It's why I can stomach Starbuck's coffee -- it's hardly coffee, just warm milk. As it is, I've spent the night coming down off a sugar and caffeine rush. I did get you an elf. He was standing in the doorway to a children's shop that was playing this awful song in which the ABC is jazzed up. I quickly melted back into the crowd so they don't know it was me.

bertas said...

Boys pardon me,but that is not coffee :)... I took me a while when I was in England to find where I could get a decent coffee and when I finally found it I was over the moon... given I was suffering from severe withdrawl symptoms by that time, it was not pretty but it was bloody good...
Go to cafe Nero (that is the only chain that can produce a decent cup) and ask for double espresso with milk on the side... you will be buzzing for hours... :)

The Titch said...

Dick have you ever tried a Duck Fart? It smells and tastes great and makes a tasty Christmas Coffee treat. Ask Judy to brew one for you,the recipe is below.


Duck Fart Coffee Drink Recipe

Ingredients
1 1/2 oz Coffee Liqueur
1 1/2 oz Irish Cream
10 oz (brewed) Coffee
1 tsp Creme de Cacao
1 1/2 oz Canadian Whiskey
1 oz Whipping Cream

Directions
In a 12 - 16 oz coffee mug or glass, add the Bailey's irish cream, Crown Royal Canadian whisky, Kahlua coffee liqueur and almost fill with brewed coffeee made less than 1 hour beforehand. Top with whipped cream; drizzle creme de cacao on top and serve.
Serve in a Coffee Mug

Ethel said...

But why's it called Duck Fart?

I'd leave a more witty comment, but Tich's reference to Nescafe has reminded me of the vile aroma emanating from the massive tins of Prison Blend 43 at work, and I need to go sniff some Earl Grey to recover...

The Titch said...

Ethel..I think the name of the brew comes from the old expression...."as drunk as a ducks fart"
Here is a Christmas recipe for tasty tea to put the warm up your wind this winter. Its called Tigers T-Raf and makes you "fart like a Tiger" as they say. Heres the recipe....Merry Christmas.


Tigers T-Raf Tea.

Add a bit of roar to your iced tea with bitters and cognac. It's a sophisticated and different way to serve an iced tea cocktail & makes you "fart like a Tiger", as the saying goes.
INGREDIENTS:
4 oz cold tea
1 tsp lemon juice
2 dashes aromatic bitters
1 tsp sugar syrup (see below for recipe)
1 1/2 oz cognac
PREPARATION:
Mix ingredients and serve over ice, with a lemon slice.

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