Higher Grounds: Refining Your Coffee Culture

By: Avior Hazan  |  August 22, 2021

By: Avior Hazan, Features Editor

This past summer I made thousands of peoples’ days better. Surprisingly, the means were relatively simple: I became a coffee barista for a locally owned coffeehouse. Although I know most people can show a certain appreciation for coffee, it really is amazing that forcing piping hot water through some fancy beans can make you from sluggish and tired to energized and motivated. I was fortunate enough to learn from experienced baristas at “Nordic Bakery”, a European Café located just a mile from the Boardwalk in Hollywood, Florida. Notwithstanding the 4:00 am wake-ups, serving as a barista has not only opened my eyes to the culture of coffee, but the lack thereof. 

Let me explain: “Can I please have a caramel macchiato?” says the confident customer in front of me. “Certainly! That will be $4.50” I say. I turn around, pull two shots of espresso, and conduct the procedure to make the perfect Latte. Why? The answer is simple. Real coffee enthusiasts know that Starbucks Coffee has spoiled the virtue of true European coffee culture. In fact, a “Traditional” European Macchiato is simple: espresso, topped with a dab of foam in the center of the crema (the natural foam which accumulates at the top of an espresso shot). Further, they certainly do not add any flavors, other than sugar of course. Much different from this is the Starbucks “macchiato” that Starbucks lovers across the world have come to love — which is actually neither a macchiato, nor a latte. 

Another example of this phenomenon is with the americano, which interestingly originated from American Soldiers in Italy during WWII. When Italian coffee (just plain espresso) was too bitter for them, they began adding small amounts of water, which is exactly what an “americano” is. Nowadays however, serve an American a traditional americano, and you will likely be met with an unhappy customer. Having not known the difference, I would be upset, too. 

Afterall, knowing your coffee is knowing what your caffeine intake levels work best for you, and what flavors make your day sweeter. I have found that finding a rhythm is what is most important, no matter if you go with Starbucks, Dunkin’, or the YU cafeteria, find what you like best and stick with it. More than the antics of picky baristas such as myself, there really are plenty of amazing coffee options available. My personal recommendation for an extra boost: A simple iced latte with two shots of espresso — which will certainly get you up and running for the start of the semester! 

As they say in Norway, Skål!