by Cleo Coyle
Cleo Coyle (pseudonym see below), author of the Coffeehouse Mystery series, shares with us some coffee trivia, recipes & fun. Also in this issue is a review of her latest Coffeehouse Cystery, A Brew To A Kill and a chance to win a copy of the book.
Pop quiz: What is a barista?
a) a lawyer from England
b) someone who prepares alcoholic beverages
c) a fashionable garment
d) a person who loves burritos
e) someone who prepares coffee drinks
A major coffee company asked 2,000 Americans this very question. As the author of a series of mysteries set in a landmark coffee shop, I was naturally interested in the results. So how did they do?
11% reported that a barista was a lawyer from England. (Okay, misreading “barista” as “barrister” is an understandable mistake.)
7% thought it was someone who prepares alcoholic beverages. (I’m guessing these people replied during Happy Hour.)
6% said it was a fashionable garment. (Deductive reasoning in play here: “Sounds foreign, and fashion houses are foreign, so I’ll guess this.”)
1% reported that it was a person who loves burritos. (I don’t want to meet these people—on the other hand, they might point me to a great recipe for chalupas.)
41% said they did not know. (That’s a fair answer for people who don’t care who made their latte, as long as it’s hot.)
34% got it right.
All of you hardworking baristas out there should not be disheartened. Two out of three people probably can’t tell you the difference between a neurologist and a podiatrist, either. But, hey, that’s where books can help.
Slang, of course, is an important part of any novel’s setting, whether its cop jargon or medical terminology, and I always enjoy reading a story in which the author has researched the culture well enough to teach me something new about it.
For our Haunted Bookshop Mysteries, which feature the ghost of a hard-boiled PI, my husband and I researched the patois used by gumshoes of the Black Mask era. For the Coffeehouse Mysteries, however, we made like our ghostly detective and haunted coffeehouses.
For those of you who enjoy coffeehouse culture already, you can test your java IQ with my glossary below. For those who don’t have a clue what the difference is between a “dry” cappuccino and a “skinny” latte, my list of terms will give you a head start on some basics. And if you’d like to be your own barista, I’ve got you covered, too. Below my coffeehouse cheat sheet, you will find my recipe for a copycat Frappuccio. May you drink (and read) with joy.
Some Basic Coffeehouse Terms from Cleo
Shot–a single serving of espresso, often in a small cup called a demitasse.
Doppio espresso–two shots of espresso; “Doppio” in Italian literally means double.
Espresso–An Italian word that literally means “express,” the term refers to a method for making coffee. Espresso usually starts with a darkly roasted coffee (an “Italian” or “espresso” roast), which is ground very fine and packed tightly into the “portafilter” handle of an espresso machine. A small amount of very hot water is forced through these packed grounds at a high pressure. The contact time between the water and the coffee is very short, about 25 seconds. When an espresso is made correctly, you should see a reddish-brown “crema” at the top of your cup. This coffee foam is the single most important thing to look for in a well-made espresso. It tells you the oils in the coffee have been released and suspended in the liquid. (If you’re in France, you might hear customers ordering “café noir,” which is what they call a single shot of espresso.)
Latte–(“lat” for short.) All Italian-style drinks in a gourmet coffeehouse start with at least one shot of espresso, and the latte is no exception. Short for “café latte,” this is the most popular drink served in American coffeehouses. It’s made by adding steamed or hot milk to one or more espresso shots. Americans top their lattes with foam. Italians do not.
Cappuccino–(“cap” for short.) Like a latte, this drink starts with espresso, but much more foamed milk is added than you’ll find in a latte.
Dry (or foamy)–as in “I’d like a dry cap.” Dry means you’d like more foamed milk in your drink.
Wet (or flat)–as in “I’d like a wet cap.” Wet means you’d like less foam in your cappuccino and more steamed milk instead.
Mocha–chocolate variation of a latte
Vanilla latte–when you add vanilla syrup to a plain latte
Caramel latte–when you add caramel syrup to a plain latte
And so on: Many more variations can be made to the latte by adding different flavored syrups. The above flavors are the most popular. Others commonly found in American coffeehouses include hazelnut, almond, raspberry, Irish crème, peppermint, cinnamon, and Valencia orange.
Steamers–a drink of steamed milk using flavored syrup and no espresso.
More fun coffeehouse terms include:
Red eye–aka Speed Ball, Depth Charge, Shot in the Dark, Café M.F. This drink works on the same principal as a boilermaker. It’s a shot of espresso dumped into a cup of brewed coffee. When you really need that caffeine buzz, this is your drink.
Why bother–a decaf espresso, as in: “One ‘why bother,’ please!”
Harmless–a drink made with decaf espresso and skim milk.
Skinny–coffeehouse jargon for requesting skim milk in your drink instead of whole.
Breve–as in “I’d like a breve latte or I’d like a breve cap.” This means that you would like half-and-half instead of whole milk in your drink.
Pull–as in “short pull” of espresso or “I pulled a doppio espresso for him.” Espresso machines once had handles, which the barista pulled to begin the process of forcing the water, under high pressure, through the espresso. The term stuck, even though modern coffeehouse espresso machines no longer function the same way.
Ristretto–In Italian, ristretto literally means “restricted,” and that’s a good way to think about a restricted, or short shot of espresso. It’s made with less than the usual amount of water, essentially stopped or pulled short. (You might also hear the term “short pull.” This produces an even more intense flavor than a regular espresso shot.)
Cleo’s Copycat “Frap” (Frappuccino)
To download this recipe in a printable PDF form, click here.
Makes one 8-ounce serving
1/3 cup coffee (4 coffee ice cubes)
1/3 cup milk (low fat is fine)
2 teaspoons sugar (or more if you like your drinks sweeter)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder (for a copycat mochaccino)
whipped cream (optional)
DIRECTIONS: Fill an ice cube tray with leftover coffee and freeze. Place four of your coffee ice cubes in a blender. Add milk, sugar, vanilla extract, and (optional) cocoa for a mochaccino. Pulse the blender to chop the coffee cubes into fine particles. You can create an icy drink with small chips (like a frozen margarita) or run the blender full speed until the mixture is completely liquefied yet still cold and frothy. To finish, pour this frosty refresher into a glass mug and top with whipped cream.