Coffee Passions: One of These Things is Not Like the Other

October 24, 2020 / Etta Madden / Subscribe

A cup of coffee in a clear mug next to a breakfast cookie with a glass of water and a small pitcher of milk in the backgroun

Double espresso and breakfast cookie in Rome

A paper cup from Starbucks with a lid

Cappuccino from Starbucks, small

One afternoon this week my desk work demanded a break. A good strong coffee called to me, as I sat staring at the computer. I had skipped my usual morning dose — two strong cups of bold espresso to fulfill my passions. “Un doppio,” I would order in Italy, usually “macchiato”–stained with milk. In Missouri, instead of Rome, I moved to the closest coffee spot around and ordered an afternoon brew.

Why? I wondered once again. Why? What is it about American coffee shops–independent or otherwise–that causes the cost to be twice as much as the near twin abroad? (This question is not a rhetorical one. Please clue me in!)

Am I paying for a personalized cup, with my name scribbled onto the paper takeaway-and-throw away? Is it real estate, insurance, advertising, and/or other overhead?

No complaints about the taste of what I consumed from that paper cup–except that everything tastes better in a glass, pottery or porcelain vessel.

Notice the clear glass cup from which I sipped an espresso doppio in Rome (yeah, sometime back before Covid). (Notice, too, the little pitcher of milk–the barista knew I was an American and suspected I would want more milk!) This delightful beverage, served at a table and with a healthy breakfast cookie–and a healthy serving of water–cost the equivalent of that single takeaway liquid treat in Springfield.

Yes, I’m longing for those Italian treats I miss: the coffee that soothes my passions, the many places in Rome and elsewhere that serve it up quickly and well.

Anyone else hoping that memories and what’s nearby will be enough to satisfy?

Etta Madden