Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Espresso Bar Basic Ordering And Ettiquette Tips

By Scott Lovejoy

As recently as a decade ago, the only people who patronized espresso bars were those who knew what they wanted. Serious coffee towns like Seattle, Portland and New York City pioneered the concept of gourmet coffee. In other cities they served a smaller 'niche' population who understood the differences between a quality drink and a "cup of Joe" from the local 7-11.

Today, espresso bars are ubiquitous in any decent sized city or town. Thats a good thing for those of us who like espresso, but has presented its own set of problems. The problem Ive encountered at establishments that arent in traditional espresso country is that far too often the customers are neophytes who not only dont know what they want but dont understand the entire concept of espresso. Frequently, lines will ensue not because the staff isnt pulling shots quickly enough or that theyve got too many customers but because some clueless newbie is hemming and hawing over what to order.

For the benefit of newcomers, here are some tips that will help you look like an expert when you go to order espresso.

--Know what you're ordering BEFORE you get in line: You should have a few "default" drinks, much in the same way that most people have a preferred cocktail or soft drink. For example, you might choose a latte or espresso in cold weather and an iced coffee or latte in the summertime. If you want a specific type of milk, make sure you specify it. Sometimes a barista will ask, but they're not expected to. Also, make note of what size you want--for some reason every espresso bar calls their sizes by different names.

--Avoid taking your children to an espresso bar. This is not only in the interest of preserving the ambiance of a good espresso bar, but for the sake of your kids as well. Kids don't want to drink coffee. Take them to get an ice cream or somewhere they'll actually enjoy. If you must take them, the same rules apply for them that apply to adults--make sure they know what they want. Many espresso places also serve soft drinks, if not they'll usually have bottled juices or they can whip up an Italian soda. In any case, its not their responsibility to come up with "kid friendly" drinks any more than I'd expect the local Chuck E. Cheese to make me a martini or a single malt scotch. Also, make sure they're own their best behavior. Explain to them that this is a grown up environment, and they're expected to conduct themselves as such.

--Tip the barista. Generous tipping is a good rule in general. It's good karma, and helps make your life easier and more pleasant. Nowhere is this more evident than the local espresso bar. Most will have a tip cup, but if they don't don't be shy about slipping the help a dollar when you pay for your drink. It'll be the best investment you ever make, and particularly if its a place you patronize regularly.

--If you want your drink made a certain way, explain it while you order. This implies you know what youre doing and should not be confused with stammering around about espresso basics. The good news is that most of the big chains like Starbucks and Barnes and Noble train their help to make a decently consistent drink. Theyre taught to follow a procedure, however, and if you want your drink done a certain way that isnt standard operating practice youll need to explain what you want. Don't assume that just because your local coffee shop makes a drink a certain way that every other espresso bar in the world will do the same. If you're in doubt, ask.

--Finally, the word is spelled ES-press-o and NOT EX-press-o. There's no "X" in the world, and it should not be pronounced as if there is.

About the Author:

No comments: