Let’s talk about coffee. Yes, that magical drink that wakes many of you up every morning and prepares you for the long day ahead.
People drink a lot of coffee. So much that in January, world coffee exports totaled 9.84 million 132-pound bags. But how much does the average person know about coffee?
I knew little to nothing about it a couple of years ago. Then I got a job at Starbucks. I’m hardly an expert, but in just two years I learned a lot about espresso, coffee and how different it can be in each country.
Just days before my first shift as a barista, I was at a coffee shop looking over their menu. I knew I wanted a mocha something because mochas are my go-to drink. Usually when I order a mocha it’s implied that it’ll be a mocha latte. But this time, the barista asked if I wanted a latte or a cappuccino.
“What’s the difference?” I asked.
A latte is espresso with mostly milk. A cappuccino is espresso with half milk, half foam.
That was one of many things I’d learn about coffee in the next few weeks.
Once I started my training at Starbucks, I was overwhelmed with information about types of coffee beans (there are two main types, arabica and robusta), their many blends, and the many ways one can make just a simple cup of coffee.
I won’t try to teach you everything I had to learn about coffee. Honestly, I don’t remember some of it anymore even though it’s just been four months since I left the job. But here are some basics, beside the difference between a cappuccino and a latte.
Many people assume dark roast means stronger coffee, which must mean more caffeine. Actually, the opposite is true. The more a coffee bean is roasted the less caffeine it will have. So if you’re looking for a coffee with the most caffeine, go with a blonde roast.
For those who just like their coffee black, it’s easy to figure out. Black coffee is just water over grounds. Even after working at a coffee shop for almost two years, I still can’t drink black coffee.
Lattes are an easy choice for those who don’t like black coffee. And if you need some flavor with your milk and espresso, most coffee shops have a long list of options to choose from. My favorite is mint chocolate, but I’ve also tried flavors like lavender and cardamom and black salt, which were both delicious.
For those that do like their coffee black but want to try something slightly different, I’d recommend ordering an Americano. It’s made with espresso beans and water, but is basically stronger in flavor than regular coffee.
If you’re traveling outside the U.S., coffee shops will be a little different. First, their sizes will be a lot smaller, because America seems to upsize everything. Most of the lattes I ordered in Europe were 8 ounces or 12 ounces. Also, if you just order coffee, you’re likely going to get espresso. It’ll be a lot stronger and about 4 ounces.
If you want a regular, black cup of coffee in Europe, your best bet is to order an Americano. Lattes and cappuccinos are pretty much the same there. I rarely saw flavored lattes and cappuccinos, so my go-to while traveling was a latte which I would then sweeten with a lot of raw sugar.
For those of you who order blended coffee, I feel like I need to tell you those have very little caffeine and a lot of sugar.
But I don’t want to end this on a bad note, so I’ll leave you with this advice instead. Find a coffee shop that offers espresso affogato. It’s a fancy name for espresso shots over vanilla ice cream. If you can’t find a place, walk into a coffee shop with a couple scoops of ice cream in a cup and just order a double shot of espresso to pour on your ice cream. It’s like an espresso version of a root beer float and it’s amazing!