Sunday, 6 February 2011

Coffee, anyone?

I’ve been going to Portuguese classes and have been finding the various names for coffee just a little confusing. It’s all right when you’re in the country and get used to ordering a particular type of coffee on a regular basis but learning it from a list is a different matter. And besides, they have different names according to whether you speak Portuguese Portuguese or Brazilian Portuguese. And then I was reminded that in fact the Portuguese terminology is not too bad; at least they use their own language which cannot be said for English which uses a confusing mixture of other languages.

We set off on Friday for a weekend in Newcastle visiting friends. We were travelling by train and had allowed ourselves plenty of time to collect our pre-purchased tickets from the machine at Manchester’s Piccadilly station. We were rather pessimistic and perhaps a little over-cautious after our experiences with Virgin’s ticket machine in London in November when we almost lost our tickets and had something of an argument with officials there. This time, by contrast, all went very smoothly and, with time in hand, we decided to treat ourselves to a cup of coffee before departure.

Now, Manchester Piccadilly station these days is like an airport with its array of shopping opportunities and variety of coffee sellers. So we spent a good few minutes walking around seeking a coffee outlet to suit our requirements. Some places were discounted because they produce a strange milky brown liquid which is not truly coffee as we know it. Others were rejected, despite making good coffee, because they only sold it in paper cups. Eventually we found a place that served coffee in proper cups, provided you stayed in the premises; how quaint and civilised. They even had spoons with which to stir your coffee, even if they were only plastic ones! Oh, and a range of cup sizes, something which does not usually happen with the plastic cup brigade.

And then came the choices!! First something called a “flat white”; what exactly is that? (According to one definition it a white coffee that is not made with espresso coffee. Another says it is made by pouring foamed milk over espresso coffee; so how does it differ from latte? Apparently it originated in Australia or New Zealand.) And why is it FLAT?

Then there was cappuccino, easy enough but note that it has an Italian name and can also come as a caramel cappuccino. (I’m sure they don’t do that in Italy.) Similarly latte. Also on offer, has become quite comprehensible although why it can’t just be called white coffee is beyond me. These two, like the Americano (why does adding hot water to espresso coffee make it American?), came in small, medium and large. I have never understood how anyone ever manages to drink “large” coffees, a cup size far bigger than anything considered normal in the coffee drinking countries of mainland Europe.

Finally the list offered macchiato and cortado. Surely these two are the same drink with an Italian name or a Spanish name? They certainly are when I ask for them in Italy or Spain.

What I really wanted was a small white coffee or a slightly larger than usual macchiato/cortado in what this establishment called a medium cup, almost exactly the size that the Spanish serve a small white coffee in. So I engaged in a bit of friendly discussion with the staff. Well, it transpires that a macchiato is an espresso with a little milk foam while a cortado is an espresso with a little milk. Doh!!! I’m still confused!!!

We opted for macchiato in the end – only available in small cups – and it was quite acceptable but who would have thought that it could be so hard to get a simple cup of coffee?

1 comment:

  1. But Latte isn't (shouldn't be) the same as a white coffee. Latte is steamed milk, as you say above. White Coffee is coffee with normal (or possibly hot) milk added.