America's Cappuccino Crisis

Hey Starbucks, Peet's and Coffee Bean. Hey, you nose-ringed, eyebrow-pierced, knit-capped, tribal-tattooed baristas: listen up. America's cappuccino is cold. And, at $4.25 a cup, we are pissed.

The first inkling I had that America was on the precipice of a full-scale National Premium Coffee Beverage Emergency was back in February. I was sitting in my favorite coffee house in Washington, D.C., and ordered a cortado. When it came, it wasn't cold, but it wasn't hot, either. It was just... meh. I figured my barista had a bad night.

It happened to me again with a cappuccino in New York City -- meh. And a macchiato in Santa Monica -- meh. One had a beautiful heart, one a pine tree, or a bird -- it wasn't clear. But neither of them was hot. I can tell you that coffee in America has never looked better or tasted colder.

At first, I thought the cappuccino crisis was due to the widespread adoption of microfoam -- the foam with all the little bubbles that has become as an industry standard that allows baristas to make pretty swirls in your coffee. But after I had a very hot cappuccino with a great spiral design on top, I knew it wasn't the foam that was the problem.

So, what is the problem? Poorly trained baristas? Not enough fat content in my milk to retain heat? I know if it's happening to me, it's happening to other people, too. Maybe you. America's caffeine addicts deserve better. I am getting sentimental for an era when you had to be careful opening your McDonald's coffee because you might wind up with 2nd degree burns from it.

I've had so many lukewarm cappuccinos, I don' t even expect my coffee to be hot anymore. And that's what happens when you live in an era of diminished expectations. Everything slides. First Randy Jackson leaves American Idol, then Adam Sandler makes Grown-Ups 2 a little less funny than Grown-Ups, and then, your cappuccino is served to you just a little less hot than it used to be.

Don't give up hope. Of you, I only ask that if one bleary-eyed morning, you should find yourself handing over a five dollar bill at some high priced coffee establishment, only to be given a cup of coffee that's as hot as Silvio Berlusconi in a Speedo, give it back and ask them to make it again. It might mean a hotter cappuccino not only for you, but for the person in line behind you. These challenging times we live in demand no less.