Café Confusion


August 22, 2012 by benmblackman

You might remember from my last (non)award winning blog Mentalist at the Dentist I listed a few of my pet hates when it comes to terminology or wording. I bet you’ve been wondering what else really gets on my nerves haven’t you (aside from guesstimate; expresso and ickle)? Well your wait is over. Lucky you.

The whole expresso thing leads me on to general café culture (and with that the ridiculous terminology that accompanies it). Am I the only one who doesn’t understand what on earth is going on and how to order a simple cup of coffee these days?

Not this sort of large cup size – you perverts

For a start – what’s with the cups? The size is astronomical! Do I ever feel the need to drink a pint of coffee at home or round at a friends house? No, that would just be silly wouldn’t it? So why the need or assumed demand for cups the size of pint pots?

This sort of large cup size I mean

Obviously if round at a friends house, by the way, I’d be drinking wine and as far as that is concerned I would be more than happy to take on a pint in one glass if this is ever deemed acceptable as seems to be the case in cafés these days. I blame it on the obscure sizing terminology they all seem to use.

This is acceptable

Can we not just have small; medium; and large? Of course we can’t. Tall really means small – or do I mean primo?

Obviously, we are on safer ground with medium because even my poor linguistic skills can identify medio as medium.

But then, hang on, what’s going on here then? I thought I could also comprehend the fact that grande would mean large until I realised that in one popular café chain grande actually means medium because there, venti means large.

Confused? So am I!

Obviously this confusion is not enough because another of the large chains has gone even further. Not happy with tall, grande, and venti, they’ve invented a new size of coffee alltogether (that seriously must have a health warning on it) and so also a word to describe its’ statuesque: trenta. As far as I know (and I don’t know much granted) this is not a foreign word for anything size related. How am I expected to keep up?

The average human stomach has a smaller capacity than this coffee cup for goodness sake! Dear Lord.

Am I supposed to actually use this terminology? I can’t bring myself to. I just feel silly so I ask for a small or medium (but then you get tricked and they just give you a grande anyway don’t they). What would Mary Whitehouse have to say about all of this? I ask you.

If you told Mary Whitehouse she had to order a tall or grandè drink, I know for a fact this is what she would do.

In fact this stuff doesn’t really bother me that much because I usually drink espresso (NOT expresso remember) but if I get caught up ordering for somebody else it can cause a nuisance, especially if they go for some of the more exotic varieties on the menus:

Would you like a ‘regular’ (Lord only knows what size that will come out to be) espresso or would you prefer a risretto? Maybe you’re more of a macchiato or con panna kind of guy or gal? At least these are (as far as I know) traditional styles and varieties of barista served coffee. You could find these varieties in Italy, Spain, France or any of the big European coffee drinking countries. Like the traditional cappuccino (OAP drink of choice these days – at least regular in size, preferably grande – blimey, no wonder they’re always bumping in to things, shouting so loudly and ‘not sleeping so well’). Do they get cappuccino free with their bus pass? I can’t think how they can afford so much of the stuff otherwise.

So, what’s with all the rest of this stuff? Skinny this and ½ shot of that, light this, heavy that, easy on the so-and-so, extra what-do-ya-call-it, flat white, milano, bilano (I made that one up). Where does it end?

‘What sort of mocha would you like?’


‘I’ve got café mocha or would you like a mocha frappé latte.’

Oh no, you’ve got me started now, don’t get me started on latte. It’s too late – I’m already there…

I replace the words ‘eat’ and ‘quiche’ in the following well known maxim to make what I

‘It puts hairs on your chest.’

believe it really should be: ‘a real man doesn’t drink latte’. I live in Lancashire where you would think they would know better but they don’t you know. Maybe they are just trying to work out which one they like best – there are so many of them:

Latte; skinny latte; frappe latte; mocha frappe latte; iced latte; iced latte milkshake (that’s just a milkshake surely); iced skinny flavoured latte (that’s just a rubbish milkshake surely)?

Real Lancastrians – ‘Latte? Beer I tell thee, beer is what we drink lad. Been drinking it since I was 12 and it’s not done me no harm boy.

I don’t think most people actually know themselves what they are ordering – they just try to use as much of the pretend café terminology as they can in order to fit in – and then walk away pretending whatever they are given is exactly what they wanted. This must be true if anybody seriously ever orders (and this is available and exists – I’ve checked) a, wait for it:

Grande café mocha cookie crumble frappachino with hazelnut shot and spinkles. What the spinkles are, who only knows – some aspirin for the headache it must induce perhaps?

To finish I think we should end on a high – I once sat outside a well known café in a sleepy Lancashire market town when I overheard (well it wasn’t hard – he was shouting louder than a cox in an olympic rowing fours) an american man shouting in to his ‘cell’.

‘Yeah, I’m in that quaint little café over the road flower…you know…(I love this bit)…Café De Niro.’

Just hanging out, having an espresso (a real mans drink that) in my cafe (De Niro)

You need to read that last sentence in your best New York cop in a movie American accent – you know, the kind that calls it ‘cwwwwww-offee’. Like my use of the word chillax (even though so many other people hate it – read the blog damn it already Mentalist at the Dentist) I will forever more call this well known chain of café’s Café De Niro. I urge you to do the same. Let’s take back the power of made up terminology and naming rights.

Next time, we will explore the curious world of yoghurt and shampoo based advertising terminology. Until then, easy on the sprinkles amigos!

If there is a moral to this blog – it should be that if you’ve never watched the film ‘Wish You Were Here’ then you go and do so – right now.

This girl had it right: ‘We don’t serve cups of tea sir, only pots, that’s tea pots not piss pots but we can always make exceptions, if you want a cup of tea you need to go to the cafe with all the other riff raft but this is a café’…. Cake? ‘Bath bun, Chelsea bun, currant bun, honey bun, up your bum, fairy buns, seed cake, cherry cake, fruit cake, ginger cake, eccles cake, teacake, lemon cakes’


4 thoughts on “Café Confusion

  1. Emily Benet says:

    It drives me insane! It’s a reason I would move back to Spain and order a bloody cafe con leche. I once heard someone ask for a DRY Latte – this apparently means less froth. Whatever. It’s coffee. Just coffee.

    • benmblackman says:

      Ha ha, thanks Emily. What’s a ‘bloody’ cafe con leche? I assume it’s with a ‘shot’ of tomato juice.
      Dry latte indeed. ‘Um, I’ll have a double espresso, minus the double, hold the water please.’
      I shaketh my head!
      Thanks very much for your kind words re: the blog – really appreciate that. Quite new to it but trying to write more for practice.

  2. Have you seen Ted? This matter is discussed during the film with similar discussions to the points you have raised!

    I asked for a medium hot chocolate in a Starbucks the other day, insisting it must be really milky with lots of cream to take away.

    I was then asked if it was to drink in, I said no, take-away.

    What size? Medium please. I was told we don’t do medium we can offer bleigh, bleughe or blah, I said the one in the middle.

    Do I want cream? Yes please – and very creamy. Oh you mean the bleghile bleughblah? erm yes… maybe !?!?!!? lol

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