What your coffee order says about you

DOM KNIGHT
Last updated 10:59 21/02/2014
coffee
MARINA NEIL/Fairfax Aus
THE PERFECT SWIRL: Are you a flat white or a frothy cappuccino person?

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Coffee is an important part of my day. In fact, given the caffeine addiction that delivers an intense headache by midday if I haven't had one, it's an indispensable part of my day. 

Like many people, my most frequent order is the takeaway flat white. There's nothing pretentious about a flattie - it doesn't have one of those eye-talian names, for one thing. Solid and dependable, like an old Toyota.  

But as I've branched into other orders over the years, I've discovered that some coffee preferences draw all sorts of implications about you. If you don't believe me, just try asking a colleague to order you a piccolo latte, and wait for the sniggers.

I've ordered just about all of the following over the years, and experienced various harsh judgements each time. So I've prepared this extensive guide that explains what else you're saying when you ask for a coffee.

MILK DRINKS

Flat white

A cup of steaming baristartery often topped with a little leaf or love heart which is completely pointless when immediately covered by a plastic takeaway lid. The flat white has begun conquering the UK and US, and I'm fully confident it'll become the world's favourite morning coffee - the balance between the flavour of the coffee and comfort factor of the milk is perfect to begin the day. I reckon ordering a flat white says nothing much about you except that you like coffee.

Caffe latte

In some parts of the world, a small latte gets you a flat white. But here, a latte is milkier in its composition than a flat white, and often a lot larger in size, meaning that the coffee is diluted and less flavoursome. Most often, you get a glass of warm milk with a tiny it of coffee flavour. Also, after that one time I was in a park in the glitzy Sydney suburb of Double Bay and a woman ran past me in her heels calling after a dog called "Latte", I find it a bit difficult to order them without wincing.

Piccolo latte

This is the most embarrassing to order of all the drinks, with a name combining the wankiness of a latte with a tiny flute. It's ironic, seeing as the name is so silly, that the piccolo is one of the best coffee orders. Essentially it's like a short black (espresso) cup filled to the brim with milk, giving it a strong flavour.

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Macchiato

The perfect afternoon booster, a macchiato is just a short black with a dash of milk in it. You need to like strong coffee to enjoy this, so it either makes you seem kinda tough, or an unspeakable coffee snob who's ordering something that's meaningless to the majority of people.

Long macchiato

This is slightly different in just about single café - it's something like a long black with a splash of milk. Quite strong and with an intense coffee flavour. Ordering this is unlikely to draw much of an implication except that you have obscure tastes in coffee.

Cappuccino

This was what I first started drinking in my late teens, and it's a good entry point - you can eat the chocolate-sprinkled froth with a spoon before you have to tackle the coffee flavour. Drinking cappucinos (cappucini?) suggests either that you're heaps 80s retro-cool, or still don't quite like the actual flavour of actual coffee.

Mocha

Whereas ordering one of these says you don't like coffee at all. I quite like mochas on a cold day, but don't kid yourself - they're basically a bitter, stronger hot chocolate.

Cortado

Essentially a three-quarter flat white. Good to order if you want to overtrump a snooty barista, as these aren't generally ordered in NZ, as opposed to America where they have specially sized cups for them. I'm mainly including it here because I want to show off myself - and because they're really flavoursome.

NON-MILK DRINKS

Espresso

Also known as the short black, this establishes you as a purist with no time for milk or excessive hot water. This is the kind of coffee people drink standing up at bars in Rome, and ordering it may well suggest that you know this and are a bit of a toss... well, let's just say, the kind of person who would know that. But many say it's the best way to appreciate the flavour of different blends of coffee, and I suspect they're right.

Expresso

Don't order this - people will laugh at you.

Ristretto

An even shorter black for those who really like it strong, this is another coffee with an Italian name that'll be incomprehensible to most people. Still, thank you for saving water.

Long black

Very flavoursome and generally much hotter than coffee with milk in it, cradling a long black suggests that you've got the time to linger while contemplating nihilism and/or Sartre. Or that you don't like milk.

VARIATIONS

Decaf

One of my friends who drinks decaf is at pains to point out that there is still a bit of caffeine in decaf so it's not completely pointless. But if you're an addict like me, it's a waste of time. (If you're not addicted to caffeine - what's your secret?) Sure, people may mock you and call your coffee a "why bother", but I reckon it's worth it to avoid that crushing need for coffee that kicks in when travelling and has forced me on more than a few occasions to drink Starbucks.

Soy

Those who drink soy, or "morally superior" milk are, in general, either lactose intolerant or carnivore intolerant. I always thought soy coffee was a disgraceful compromise and would taste disgusting and watery. As it happens, it's nutty-flavoured and rich - well worth trying it even if you like regular milk. But there's no denying that ordering soy says you're fussy - and rich, since you'll be paying at least five bucks for a takeaway.

Half double decaffeinated half-caf with a twist of lemon.

LA Story is such a great film. I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out what this would actually get you, but as yet, I've failed. Nevertheless, I'll have a twist of lemon.

- Daily Life

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