Coffee culture

When I was a lad, a long while since, the usual English alternative to tea seemed to be a beverage known as ‘milky coffee’. Black coffee was suspiciously foreign or downright louche — and indeed had to be drunk as a bohemian pose rather than for enjoyment since the coffee itself seemed almostly universally awful and (the cost of beans being as it then was) very weak.

Now of course, we have a sophisticated coffee culture here. Sort of.

Well, you can get a fairly decent espresso macchiato in Caffè Nero (if you gently nudge the barista to doing it properly — the clue is in the name, guys: mark with a just bit of steamed milk/foam, but don’t try to fill the espresso cup to overflowing!). But I couldn’t help but notice that today what is usually the majority choice was universal: everyone else in the busy place had either a huge cappuccino (surely three times the size of anything you’d get in Italy) or a giant mug of latte. Fifty-something years on, milky coffee still rules, OK?

6 thoughts on “Coffee culture”

  1. About 20 or 25 years ago, when every café in London started to venture beyond black and white to offer espresso, cappuccino, latte and the rest, I approached a lady serving coffee in the café of the Victoria and Albert Museum. I consulted her list of coffees, and requested a latte. She asked me whether I would like milk in it.

    In the film If, in the scene in the roadside café about half way through the film, Malcolm McDowell establishes his sophistication by asking for black coffee, but then rather spoils the effect by shovelling in sugar.

  2. Pingback: Food Links, 13.03.2013 | Tangerine and Cinnamon

  3. Isn’t a Caffè Nero cappuccino rather different from the ‘milky coffee’ of decades ago?

    And is there something necessarily unsophisticated about having milk or sugar in coffee? Milk and sugar open up more possibilities. Is that the problem? Does sophistication have to be narrowly focused?

    Re “the fact that cappuccino is strictly a morning drink” — in Italy, ok; but can’t other countries have a different, though still sophisticated, coffee culture, or do they all have to follow Italy exactly?

  4. I should have clarified the point about Malcolm McDowell’s sugar. There is nothing wrong with sugar itself. It is the shovelling that lacks class: two dessert spoons full, and then he drops the wet spoon back in the sugar tin.

    The name of Nero on coffee shops makes me smile, not on account of any emperor, but because it is the modern Greek word for water. Perhaps the shops attract few Greek tourists.

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