"One Large Latte Please... Black"

In my relatively short period of time in the 'World of Coffee', I have come to realise that it comprises a rather eclectic group of people.

The range of knowledge and tastes varies vastly, from the "Midi Soy Cortado" to the "Just make me a normal coffee with 6 sugars", there remains one constant, and that is.... Brits love coffee!

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Now, I do not proclaim to know everything about coffee, in fact, I probably know the bare minimum to get by. It's one of those jobs where you need to pick things up as you go along.. For example; The first time I was asked for a 'Babycino', save looking like a complete amateur, I confidently said "no problem" and proceeded to act as if I was operating the Till, whilst in actual fact I (with a perfectly calm expression) was frantically Googling "How to make a Baby cheeno". Fortunately I was in an area with good mobile reception and so was able to prepare the steamed milk with a sprinkling of cocoa powder reasonably quickly.

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Just as I sat down to write this Post, a customer came along and told me about 'The good'ol days' driving lorries in France where they all used to drink '200 Mile Coffee', A concoction of either double or triple espresso with a generous helping of 'Calvados' (an apple brandy) which apparently made it possible to drive for 200 miles without becoming drowsy.
It turns out that Irish Coffee Calvados is a thing, but I get the feeling the way these guys were drinking it was a little different to an after dinner treat.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is.. as varied as the accents are in Britain, so to are the names for different coffees based on either ingredients or simply, the area of the country you are in.

Most people tend to stick with what they know. They have been out for coffee once with an 'aficionado' next door neighbour, who has suggested they try a Chai Latte.. and so they have.. and they have liked it.. and therefore they have resigned themselves to drinking Chai Latte forever more. Until you tell them that Chai Latte doesn't have any coffee in it, and you have to watch as their world visibly falls apart around them.

But... Make them a Dirty Chai Caramel Latte and watch with pride as they become whole once more (Who wants a Dirty Chai Caramel Latte Post?)

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The above mentioned people are the 'Middle Grounders'... They may have a coffee every now and then and pretty much get what's going on.. "There will be coffee in a cup, and all I have to do is learn Italian so that I can comfortably convey to this hipster at the machine, the quantity and frothiness (not sure if that's a word) of the milk that I would like to accompany said coffee.

These people are good, these people are the bread and butter.. But you do have to be careful not to switch into autopilot or the quality of your 'Skinny Caramel Latte' risks taking a nose dive.

Hopefully, before long, an 'Improvisor' will turn up to wake you back up again and kick your brain into gear.

Improvisors know what they want, but are usually too busy or too distracted to turn that request into a sensible request

Me: "What can I get for you"
Him: "Just a large Latte please"
Me: "Any sugar or syrup?"
Him: "No thanks mate.... Just Black"

My head immediately goes into a spin... What does he mean "Just Black"?

OK, let's unravel this.. He asked for a latte (Latte means milk), He didn't mention black until asked about sweeteners. Could he simply mean that he doesn't want sugar in his latte, or have I chanced on him not actually wanting a Latte at all as a result of my syrup line of questioning?

It was all too much to handle and I crumbled...

Me: "Sorry, was it a Black Coffee, no sugar?"
Him: "Yes please Bud"

The Gentleman received an Americano and they all lived happily ever after.

I like Improvisors, they keep me guessing and it's always entertaining to take a stab at what you think someone actually wanted and then determine when its served, if you managed to read the situation correctly or not.

Finally, you have got the 'Pantomaths'.. During the Summer months, it's easy to spot a Pantomath as they are, more often than not, sporting a Coffee related t-shirt. It becomes harder in the Winter, as their "Don't talk to me until I have had 6 Coffees" V-Neck is usually covered by a thick coat. So you have to look for the finer details, Flat Caps, London Jackets, Indiana Jones Satchels, Skinny Jeans etc etc.

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Knowing what to look for in order to have some prior warning and time to prepare mentally, doesn't make it any less terrifying however, when you glance out the corner of your eye and see "First Coffee, Then Computers" emblazoned on a cotton collarless.

It's game time! You know it, they know it, they know you know it and vice-versa. Every move, every decision, from the coarseness of the grind to the time the shot takes to pull, plus the quality of shine on the microfoam and everything in between... It is ALL under scrutiny!

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Personally I think it is an unnecessary amount of pressure to put on just one guy with his little horsebox coffee cart.. But... With great pressure comes great rewards. The taste of sweet sweet victory when the Pantomath announces "Good Coffee" must be a similar feeling to that first step on the Moon, or the first successful telephone call.

Are you a Middle Grounder, an Improvisor or a Pantomath? Is it possible that you are something else entirely? Do you 'change it up' once in a while or stick with what you know? Ever found yourself commenting on the angle of a Baristas elbow whilst they are Tamping?

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