Story by Alexa Harrington
Photos by Darice Chavira
Editors’ Note: This is a satirical, yet surprisingly informational, piece. Enjoy.
For some inexplicable reason, adult humans, dating all the way back to 400 B.C. have not only loved coffee, but have relied on it just to function. It’s a proven fact that cavemen couldn’t properly tend to their woolly mammoths without having a skinny iced soy vanilla caramel mocha latte with foam and low-fat gluten-free whipped cream to give them their morning caffeine boost.
Of course this is a joke, guys.
That drink has no caffeine in it.
What I’m getting at is this: you’re an adult now, and as an adult you are required to know your coffee. I am very aware that a lot of the words on coffee shop menus are intimidatingly Italian and provide no clue whatsoever as to what ingredients they contain. I am also aware that these words become almost illegible when you’re surrounded by pretentious, hip coffee connoisseurs (even the word connoisseur is pretentious). I have been that person staring into the thick frames of the woman behind the counter who probably wants to strangle me with her dreads because I have asked what every item on the menu is. Have no fear, innocent baby sea lions, this list of coffee basics will help you a ton. Of course this list is only a brief compilation of all of the coffee drinks this world has to offer, but it should suffice for now, you clueless know-nothings.
The base of most coffee beverages
If you need an energy boost but don’t have time for a whole drink, a shot of espresso should do the trick. Coffee fiends might need two shots to feel anything, while coffee virgins won’t be able to stomach the strong taste of espresso without any sugar. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Stick to what you can handle.
NOTE: Espresso is pronounced exactly how it is spelled, not eXpresso. Calling it “expresso” is the quickest way to be ostracized by the entire coffee community.
A shot or two of espresso marked with a touch of frothy milk
A macchiato is very similar to basic espresso, so most of the same rules apply. The major difference is that your barista has added milk and foam, giving you a little more to drink while still keeping the strong, rich taste of espresso.
NOTE: A macchiato from Starbucks and a macchiato from every where else are going to be completely different! Starbucks will give you some big, sugary drink with who knows what else. A real macchiato will have nothing more than espresso and foam. Don’t be that person who orders a macchiato from an authentic coffee shop and goes, “Um I didn’t order this” when it comes out differently than a Starbucks macchiato. People will laugh at you.
1/3 espresso, 1/3 milk and 1/3 foamed milk
As I’m sure you can gather from the ingredients, a cappuccino tastes a lot like a macchiato but with more milk. Cappuccinos are great to drink with desserts.
Espresso and water
Hot or Iced
To make an americano, you simply add water to espresso. A long black is the same thing but is prepared in reverse order, adding espresso to water. The americano is typically a bigger drink than the macchiato but is still pretty strong, as there is only water diluting the taste of espresso.
1/3 espresso, 2/3 milk
Hot or Iced
If you find yourself ordering coffee and adding a ton of milk to get it to taste the way you like, then a latte is the perfect drink for you. Lattes (especially iced) are perfect for people who are done with frappuccinos (which is another made up coffee item created by Starbucks) but aren’t quite ready for strong coffee. A touch of sugar on a latte is all you need for a barely sweet but mostly milky coffee drink.
1/3 espresso, 2/3 milk, and chocolate
Hot or Iced
If that latte was still too strong for you, that’s OK, just order a mocha. That bit of chocolate will provide the sweet escape that you’re probably looking for. If you find yourself needing to add sugar to a mocha, I suggest you go buy chocolate cake, because you have blurred the lines between coffee and dessert.
Coffee, water, and condensed milk
Hot or Iced
Vietnamese coffee and Thai coffee are essentially the same thing, consisting of rich coffee (not espresso) and condensed milk. Thai coffee, unlike Vietnamese coffee, also includes cardamom, cinnamon and almond extract. Both drinks are the perfect mix of spicy, bitter and sweet.
NOTE: Not all coffee shops have this item on their menu.
I know that it sounds like Starbucks is the coffee anti-Christ (hey, that’s actually a pretty cool/edgy coffee shop name. I might trademark that.), but I actually really like Starbucks.
Zachary Wieland, coffee enthusiast and king of Instagram, begs to differ.
“Starbucks breeds ignorance and misinformation when it comes to coffee,” Wieland says. “Plus it tastes weird.”
Ivy Vu, Tumblr goddess and Starbucks employee, rebuttals, “There is a reason why there’s always a queue out the door and why there’s a Starbucks at every street corner. We give people what they want and that’s good coffee!”
Two very hip people. Two very contrasting opinions. Maybe one day when you have matured, you can form your own opinions about Starbucks and coffee in general. But until then, stick to what you know, and leave the coffee arguments to people like Ivy and Zach.
For a list of recommended coffee shops in Austin, visit Zach’s blog.
Also, if you’re more of a visual learner (that’s what dumb people call themselves), this espresso infographic is also very helpful.
Welcome to adulthood!