Sip This: How do you take it?

A cup of coffee is often much more than a beverage.

Coffee cup 370 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Coffee cup 370
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Coffee is about how we drink it at home or at a café. It is a world of flavors in one small cup. As I see it, there are four coffee types that I recognize very easily at my café.
The knowledgeable one: He’s the one who asks a lot of questions. He knows the most bizarre kinds (“I’d like a dry cappuccino”), and he gets upset if he thinks the waiters use the wrong terms. He will explain in detail exactly how to prepare his beverage (“Short espresso up to the middle of the cup, with very little milk foam and hot milk on the side”). He’s been to all the important cafés in the world and takes a café course in Trieste every winter. He’ll tell you that coffee keeps best in the freezer (not true – it damages the beans) and boasts about buying only Italian coffee (although locally made coffee is fresher and therefore better).

The enthusiast:
He not only has five espressos at the café below his office on Rothschild Boulevard but also has an espresso machine in the office that is adjusted to exactly the way he likes it. At home, he has a top-of-the-line coffee machine. When friends drop by, he always “accidentally” goes through the kitchen that boasts his machine, next to which is an expensive bag of coffee, another way of saying “Look, I’m a gourmand.” Incidentally, this describes me.

The bewildered:
He doesn’t know what he wants and is never happy with the coffee he’s served because his requests simply don’t make sense. He’ll ask for a “waterbased cappuccino, strong, no foam and very hot in a paper cup – which will keep it hot.” So many impossible requests, and then he’ll complain, “And they charged NIS 16 for the coffee.” He will return the coffee and upset the waiters – all because really what he likes is his instant coffee at home.

The optimist:
He always sees the full half of the coffee cup. He comes to the café to have a good time, deferring to the professionals, asking many questions about the way the coffee is served, expressing his confidence in the barista’s ability to make him the best cup of coffee, envisioning himself sitting at a charming café on Via Condotti in Rome, where the atmosphere is no less important than the coffee. When his coffee is served, he enjoys every drop.
And when the bill arrives, he says it is so little to pay for a short pop-over to Rome, and leaves a generous tip.

The lifestyle
A few years ago I was involved in recruiting top-management personnel. The head hunter asked many questions about the coffee-drinking habits of the candidates – how often they go to cafés, where they sit.
When I asked what was so important about their coffee-drinking routine, she said it was a part of a lifestyle, and a top businessperson needs to frequent the top cafés regularly.
Self-styled coffee experts will invest a lot of money in an expensive machine that will ensure them excellent coffee. The unpretentious ones opt for a machine with pods or capsules (which cost them a fortune), and others settle for black Turkish coffee, the way they like it, no frills.
The cappuccino people adore their relaxing milk and coffee – two or three a day, and they’re happy. The espresso people need to feel the full strength of the caffeine four or five times a day. Others avoid milk.
For them, there are elegant options such as filter coffee. They enjoy the taste without the calories.
The outdoor types prefer cooking their coffee in the field and always have a coffee- making kit in their jeep. There are those who need just a hint of the flavor and drink lattes. Others, mostly women, want their cappuccino with mostly water, so they can enjoy both worlds. And there’s always one who sticks to what he knows and orders a cup of instant coffee in the most trendy of cafés, saying he doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about.
The writer is an expert on coffee and cafés.
He founded the first Israeli coffee-making school and the Israeli coffee organization. He is the owner of Hotam Hacafé at 81 Sokolow Street, Ramat Hasharon.