I don’t wish to complain – I’m a happy-go-lucky kind of guy who never gets aggravated by anything (unless it’s my mother yet again, because she’s not properly read it, forwarding on to her entire email contacts list a faintly racist Brexit email that begins something like ‘Stay in the EU and 76 MILLION Turks will flock to Britain!’), but one thing I will never understand is why some cafes insist on putting snazzy designs on top of their coffees.
I can only assume it started when Starbucks and Costa began infiltrating our high streets like out-of-control Japanese Knotweed in a neglected garden.
These places are everywhere. It’s often said in the UK you are never more than 12 feet from a rat. They should change that to you’re never more than three foot from somewhere selling over-priced cappuccinos.
It used to be so much simpler, and cheaper. Coffee came from a jar and to make it you stuck a spoonful of powder in a mug and added hot water and a dash of milk. And guess what, it tasted absolutely fine.
Now, places just stick a staff member in a T-shirt with the word ‘Barista’ on it and charge the earth for what I reckon is probably pretty much the same thing as the instant stuff, except it’s now made by an expensive sci-fi looking machine which makes a few mysterious slurping noises.
Worse still we rarely get our drinks served in a mug anymore. Recently I ordered a coffee and it came in an upright glass without handles. I couldn’t pick it up for 15 minutes because it was too hot. Ridiculous.
Anyway, what has prompted this rant is because I was in a Marks & Spencer cafe the other day and ordered a hot chocolate.
I don’t usually order a hot chocolate but I needed something comforting for I’d endured a terribly stressful day – Mrs Canavan hadn’t put the bins out so I had to spend ages writing a note reminding her to do it later.
The youth serving me was wearing a nose-ring and had a large tattoo of what I think was a dragon but could have been an out-of-shape rhinoceros covering his forearm – proof that standards really are slipping at M&S – who told me my drink would be ready at the end of the counter ‘in a second or two’.
That was a lie.
Four minutes later I was still waiting.
The reason for the delay was because the young man in question was stood behind some sort of huge brew-making device, twisting his arms all sorts of ways, and talking a colleague through something.
‘You just need to hold your left hand down, Jess,’ he was saying, ‘and when you hear the clicking noise, angle your thumb slightly to the right until it gets to about a 45° angle, then twist it back sharply and repeat’.
This masterclass went on for some time and the young man was clearly taking it very seriously because several minutes in, after a series of quite energetic jerky moves that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Boxercise session, he had broken into a light sweat.
While this went on, the girl and I exchanged looks – she was clearly as fed-up and as frustrated as I was – and then finally he very proudly lifted up a mug and presented me my drink which had, imprinted on the froth on the top, the outline of a leaf.
I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. He was clearly expecting some sort of acknowledgment for his efforts so I found myself weakly saying, ‘thanks, that’s a lovely leaf’.
He nodded and smiled proudly as if he’d just achieved something unique, like writing a number one hit pop song or coming up with a cure for diabetes.
Now don’t get me wrong, this leaf was intricately done and had I been visiting an art gallery, say, instead of ordering a hot drink, I might have been impressed.
However, it’s a drink. When I took one sip and slurped the froth off, the leaf disappeared, meaning the lad had essentially wasted four minutes of his life.
The most annoying part of all this was that my drink was, if not quite freezing cold, then at least barely lukewarm because he had spent so damn long working on creating a pretty pattern.
So, before I burst a blood vessel in my neck at the stress of all this, my plea to coffee shops, from M&S to the local high street cafes, is, please, just concentrate on making a nice brew and not on the artwork on top.
Right, rant over. Time to take my tablets.