My father used to like his hot drinks hot and his cold drinks cold.
He preferred his soup to be at palate-blistering temperatures well beyond normal human tolerance. But that was the way he liked it and that was the way it was served up to him. No skin off anyone’s nose – the roof of Dad’s mouth was the only potential victim here.
I have always liked my coffee hot. And weak.
I’m not sure which is the greater evil in the eyes of cafe society. For many years I kept my guilty secret to myself, fearing the disapprobation of family, friends and – worst of all – baristas. Eventually I got up the courage to ask for a weak coffee. It felt like an admission of my own lack of muscle. The strength of your coffee seemed to be a reflection of the strength of your character.
And then ‘half strength’ coffee became a thing.
Somehow it was more acceptable to profess to a desire to reduce your caffeine intake than to prefer the taste of weak coffee. I went along with it, happy to have a label to hide behind.
So I graduated from drinking tepid strong coffee to drinking tepid weak coffee. Eventually I decided I’d had enough of paying for coffee that was swallowed in one or two gulps. I like to sip and savour. So I asked if I could please – if it wasn’t too much trouble – have my coffee a bit hotter. It was another tentative step in my journey towards the perfect weak flat white extra hot.
I became that person no one else wanted to sit with when they ordered their coffee.
I tried being obsequious – I’m really sorry to be a nuisance/my children don’t want to be associated with me/oh what children? they’ve moved to another table – but in the end it wore me down. I was, after all, a paying customer.
And I noticed those around me were starting to follow my lead. I was a little bit of a trailblazer. And it gave me the confidence to demand respect in spite of my unacceptable coffee preferences.
Now I hold my head high when I ask for my weak flat white extra hot. And I am not alone. There are buttons on the touch screen these days to accommodate people like me. I have come out of the wilderness and into the light. Or maybe just the mainstream. Either way, it feels good.