Thursday, January 27, 2005

Coffee, tea or me?

My taste for coffee has evolved quite a bit over the years. I never drank it growing up. Couldn't understand what the big deal was. Then in the summer of 1990, I left for basic training (Army) at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Having to get up at 3 o'clock in the morning was an immense shock. After a few days, I didn't know how I was going to keep doing it until one morning at breakfast I noticed some guys slugging down huge cups of joe. I figured, "why not?". I've been hooked ever since. My new found coffee habit came in handy during my college years when I needed to pull those late night cramming sessions before a test. Every year during finals, I think the coffee stocks jumped by my usage alone. And during the summers, I would drink 1 or 2 Dunkin Donuts coffees each day - always a giant regular, extra light.

Upon entering the work force after college, I did the usual stop-at-Dunkin-Donuts-on-the-way-to-work every day. Eventually, I started stopping at the coffee trailer guy instead. He was a guy that parked his trailer right in the middle of the commuting route and sold coffee - it didn't taste as good as DD, but it was alot cheaper.

One day in the late 90's, bored with the regular coffee, I discovered cappucino. My thought was that it was stronger, which wasn't necessarily true. Of course, this was a time before Starbucks had become the monstrosity they are now. In New England, Dunkin Donuts is king, and they didn't have anything besides a good old fashioned cup of coffee.

When I got to Germany, I ordered a cappucino and was surprised to find out that in Germany, they don't use the frothed milk - they use whipped cream! Not everwhere, but most places. During my first trip to Italy we went into a cafe to get some water and I noticed that everyone was drinking out of these little cups that looked like big thimbles. Seemed strange to me at the time.

Here in Italy, the coffee situation looks like this: a regular coffee is an espresso, but they don't call it an espresso, they call it a cafe (pronounced "ca-fay"). If you go into a bar, you ask for a cafe and you get an espresso. Cappucino is seen as more of a breakfast drink and is seldom drank after lunchtime, although there are exceptions. Then you have your cafe macchiato. This is an espresso with just a bit of frothed milk, such as they put in a cappucino. You also have a cafe latte, which is an espresso mixed with a whole lot of milk and served in a tall glass. Those are the main drinks; coffee as we know it in America is pretty much non-existent here.

My daily coffee routine breaks down like this: in the morning, I usually have a couple macchiatos. I can't drink cappucinos - there's too much milk, you can't even taste the coffee. Around late morning/early afteroon, I switch to the regular cafe. Throughout the course of a day, I'll usually have anywhere from 3 - 5 cafes. In Italy, a cafe normally costs around .85 Euro cents. In the cities, you'll pay more. In Venice, I've paid as much as E2.00. Same in Rome and Milan, but you can still get it cheaper. What feeds my habit is that we have a bar on base that is here for the Italian Caribinieri, but Americans can frequent it to. We affectionately refer to it as the "Car Bar" (Cah Bah for those of us from the Boston area). The best thing about it is that a cafe there costs only .30 Euro cents. Best bargain in Italy.

When I first met Virginia, everytime I would order a coffee, she would always jokingly say "Coffee, tea or me?!". I always thought this was a strange joke until one day we were staying at a little hotel up in Germany called Pensione Letti. Letti was an older Filipina lady, so her and Virginia got along swimmingly. The next morning at breakfast, Letti comes to take our table and says, "Coffee, tea or me?". Virginia started laughing and I just shook my head. Must be a Filipina thing...

Anyway, I'm going to get a coffee.




Anonymous said...

Did a little digging around and "Coffee, Tea or Me" is the title of a 1967 bestseller written by two airline stewardesses which was later adapted for a TV movie in 1973.

I dunno why a lot of Pinoys say that automatically, though. Maybe it was a big hit at the time back home and just entered the lingo.


Dutched Pinay on Expatriation said...

Sooooo..... coffee, tea, or ME??????????


Rik said...

See? It really IS a Pinay thing...:P

Rik said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rik said...

BTW Jori - you...definitely you...