Americans Have Ruined the Coffee Culture

grings_my_gears

You know what bothers me?

Ignorant people who think they’re smart.

If you lack understanding, legitimately lack it. Embrace your ill proficiency. Realize your limitations and do something to correct it (Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish).

It’s the people that are either too vacuous or too lazy to realize they’re misguided that bother me. This is the variety that will defend their lack of intelligence.

My favorite example of this occured a few years ago. I happened upon a gentleman mixing a packet of hot cocoa with coffee instead of water. Upon noticing me noticing him he looked at me and said (and I quote), “Makin’ a poor man’s cappuccino“.

Naturally, being the coffee snob that I am, I was quick to tell him that what he was making was actually a closer approximation to a mocha.

This person then stopped – he actually stopped what he was doing – looked at me with pity (how could I be so dumb) and replied, “No, it’s got coffee in it so that makes it a cappuccino“.

He was wrong… and willing to defend his wrongness rather than accept his error and possibly learn something in the process.

I smiled back and explained that a cappuccino doesn’t contain any chocolate. Ever. In fact, the only two ingredients in a cappuccino are espresso and milk (steamed and foamed). No chocolate, just equal parts espresso, milk, and foam. A mocha on the other hand contains chocolate, milk, and espresso.

I don’t know what kind of response I was expecting. Maybe I wanted his face to light up with the glow that can only be achieved when someone learns something new. Maybe I figured he’d find the facts mildly entertaining. Quite possibly I hoped for a firm handshake and a hearty thank-you for saving him from his personal combination of arrogance and complacency.

What I got was an apathetic shrug and a “whatever“…. which I figure roughly translated to “the facts have no bearing on what I will continue to call this drink. I’m wrong and I don’t care“.

‘murica.

As a side note, few people know that, despite the very Italian name, the cappuccino actually has German roots. Strange, but true. The Italian word ‘Cappuccino’ is not known in Italian writings until the 20th century… but the German-language ‘Kapuziner’ is mentioned as a coffee beverage in 18th century Germany and Austria. The beverage actually derives its name from the hooded robes worn by monks and nuns of the capuchin order. The drink’s very distinctive color was very similar to the red-brown robes worn in 17th-century Europe. While Francis of Assisi used white wool for his robes the capuchin brothers dyed theirs to differ from Franciscans and many of the other orders.

But I digress.

Truly, there are few things in life quite as glorious as that first sip of fresh coffee first thing in the morning. If you’re a stereotypical American that phrase may be slightly altered to “Few things in life are as glorious as that first 32 ounces of warm chocolate soy milk, caramel, whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles and barely a hint of coffee in the morning”… and this isn’t a new development. Unfortunately American’s have been ruining coffee for many years.

A little more history for you – the Americano literally did not exist until World War II. American troops stationed in Italy would order a cup of coffee and, after being served espresso, ask for it to be watered down. The baristas became used to this specific request and began mockingly referring to watered down espresso as Caffè Americano (coffee American-style).

If the Italians thought that was funny the newest iteration of this drink would leave them reeling. Instead of enjoying a simple two demitasse Americano we have people ordering 16oz triple-shot Americanos with 2 tablespoons of white chocolate and enough cream to choke a small calf. It’s no secret that Americans like to come up with overly intense and equally ridiculous names for the most banal and sophomoric of objects and so this beverage was dubbed the “White Lightning”.

I suggest a more appropriate name: the ‘muricano.

It should come as no surprise that most American coffee drinkers simply love dumping milk and every variety of sugar (Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Caramel Hazelnut Delight Frappuccino, anyone?) into their espresso-based coffee drinks. What does come as a bit of a shock is that those who drink the ‘muricano boldly claim it contains less than 90 calories!

Allow me to debunk that bit of fuzzy math for you.

1 ounce of espresso has a little less than 1 calorie.

A single shot of espresso is 1-1/2 ounces while, oddly enough, a double shot is 2-1/2 ounces.

A triple-shot of espresso is a double shot plus a single… so, that totals 4 ounces; equaling about 3 calories.

1 oz (2 pumps) of Ghirardelli White Chocolate Flavored Sauce is 110 calories.

2 tablespoons of half and half is another 40 calories.

Graciously (and to the surprise of many Americans) hot water contains no calories.

This bad boy now tips the scales at 153 calories… for a cup of coffee. Outrageous when compared to a more traditional 10 ounce Americano with one sugar and a spot of cream at 30 calories. You could drink five of those (50 ounces for those not quick enough on the calculator) and still not total the calories in one 16 ounce ‘muricano.

If it’s the sweetness and sheer volume you desire, try a 16oz cold press with a pump of caramel syrup and some cream (only 75 calories). Even a 12oz skim Café Cubano (cappuccino with raw sugar and cinnamon) comes in at less with only 94 calories.

It’s not about being accurate. It’s not about basing your claims on facts. It’s about getting what you want.

In the words of Miike Snow’s excellent 2009 song, Cult Logic, “I’ll believe it even if it’s not true“.

However, based on the financial stability of Starbucks, Caribou, Dunn Bros and nearly every other variety of American coffee shop with hordes of consumers eagerly lining up to consume their next Venti Soy Pumpkin Spice Latte… I might be prepared to accept the possibility that this maybe bothers me more than it should.

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