I was queuing in a coffee shop the other day, kid glued to hip. He can walk, of course, but he’s so pampered he doesn’t have to – thank you, Alan Bennett for almost providing that line. I won’t mention the name of the coffee shop, but the founders pinched it from a character in Moby Dick. So there I am, in Queequeg’s, waiting to be served. And waiting. And waiting.
Now, I am not singling out Queequeg’s, because the problem is universal. The lads and lasses behind the counter are working their a***s off but the machinery is Stone Age. You have to switch it on, switch it off, adjust the milk, wipe the nozzle, put the cup under it, adjust the water, add the brown stuff and make those pretty patterns in the froth. You then have to ask the customer if they want chocolate on the top. I won’t even go into the resulting backlog when someone can’t decide. It’s chocolate. Have it. You’ll love it. Move on.
A nuclear explosion could have wiped us all out before we got served. But because I had an extraordinary amount of leisure time, I perused the menu and wondered aloud why the Italians have cornered the coffee market. Did they invent it? No. Did they discover it? No. So why did we let them invent silly names for it?
Now, don’t get me wrong. Some of my best lessons have been about Italians – Julius Caesar, Cesare Borgia, Garibaldi and Mussolini. Italians have contributed hugely to the culture of the world – think the Roman Empire and the Renaissance for example, not to mention about a million different shapes of pasta … I will probably be revisiting pasta at a later date – it is all the same stuff with different names, isn’t it? Thought so. But, what they have not done is earn the right to muscle in on coffee. Latte? Do what? Cappuccino? They’re monkeys, aren’t they? Espresso? That used to be a fast train.
There’s only one Italian word we should be using of modern coffee shops – lente.