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

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


  1. Shawn on October 24, 2020 at 5:19 pm


    • Etta Madden on October 25, 2020 at 11:01 am

      One of several passions I have, Shawn, but perhaps one of the few about which I will blog!

  2. Neosha Mackey on October 25, 2020 at 7:33 am

    On a stay in Florence I would have a morning espresso at the corner stand-up coffee bar. It was served in the small glass cup. Wonderful!

    Then there are the very few coffee places in China where one pays dearly for that very good cup served in china cups and saucers.

    Love a good cup!

    • Etta Madden on October 25, 2020 at 10:11 am

      Nice to know I’m not the only one, Neosha! Yes, I would pay dearly in China. I have yet to go there but hope to some day. Thanks for warning me.

  3. C Felker on November 23, 2020 at 8:32 am

    You know I think similarly. I’m being more mindful in 2020 and have adopted a true minimalist mindset back in 2020. In that spirit I bought Duralex (French) ‘mugs’ called Gigogne. These have line markings for various espresso beverages and they are part of my shifting mindset. That said, after numerous impromptu conversations – it was decided we would also buy Crate and Barrel ‘mugs’ (made in Portugal). In coffee and its containers and preparation I think we have to find our own ‘happy’ place and also recognise that as in so many areas of life – there is a spectrum delineated by class, region and cultural effects.

    • Etta Madden on November 23, 2020 at 6:13 pm

      Chris–I guess I don’t know exactly how similarly we think, but I’m happy to guess and let you confirm! Having at least two options of vessels for drinking coffee and other beverages seems minimalist enough to me. Also, about our “happy” places–I think those can vary from day to day as well. I obviously buy Starbucks and drink from a paper cup occasionally and usually enjoy it.
      Hope we can share a coffee more than virtually–and maybe somewhere in Italy–before too long.
      Thanks for responding to my post.