Mastering CSL (Coffee as a Second Language)

This year I've made it my goal to master CSL--Coffee as a Second Language.

I don't have to tell you what a social disadvantage it has been to live in a world with so many good coffee houses and not speak Coffee.

Of course, the main reason I haven't learned it is that I don't drink coffee. I love the taste and aroma but the family caffeine sensitivity has my hands shaking before I've taken a second sip. However, as I'm often reminded, you can get decaf versions of pretty much everything on the menu although a triple shot decaf espresso would probably defeat the purpose.

While I certainly agree with my friends that coffee houses are an ideal place to meet, I've never frequented them enough to really master spoken Coffee. That's because the menu scares the daylights out of me. The French may not be very tolerant of people who massacre their language but they sound like Barney the happy dinosaur compared to coffee drinkers stuck in line behind someone non-fluent in Coffee. The caffeine fiends are ten minutes past needing a fix, the tremors have set in, and anyone who holds them up is in critical danger of being fed into the bean grinder.

Would that I were kidding.

Attempting to avoid becoming a new instant coffee drink if the clientele behind me is unusually hostile, I tend to smile brightly at the barista and chirp, "I'll have what the person before me just had in a decaf."

Unfortunately, this doesn't keep them from asking you more questions. Lots more questions. The milk options alone are terrifying. In fact, I think that if you factored all the possible combinations and permutations of coffee drinks, the number would be in the bazillions.

But the problem with spoken Coffee is that it's a language with an unbelievable number of dialects. For example, there's the Frappuccino-Macchiato dialect from the Sucrose region of Italy. Only serious linguists and/or pre-diabetics really understand it.

But just when you think you've miraculously gotten out of the ordering process alive, you discover that when your drink is ready, they often don't call you by name but by what you ordered. Worse, the short hand name of what you ordered. I have no idea what I ordered. I just hope it really is decaf. And preferably has whipped cream on it. I've let my coffee order get stone cold for fear of taking someone else's drink by mistake. Because if you think coffee drinkers are cranky being in line behind a non-Coffee speaker, don't even think what would happen if you accidentally took their vente grande small cap no-foam dolce.

A friend has been lobbying her local Starbucks to introduce a new drink: the mocha valium vodka latte. Now this is a drink I could get my head around. I wouldn't even need this drink in a decaf. A nice simultaneous upper and downer, it just falls off your tongue when you say it. Of course, you might fall on your head after you drink it. But it has the added advantage that within minutes, you don't care if you speak Coffee or not.