SOPHIA MONEY- COUTTS MODERN MANNERS Crazy coffee has got me all in a froth
Crème brûlée latte, anyone? Or how about a Black Forest hot chocolate? Excuse me while I espresso my gravest doubts
When I worked for Another Newspaper, as autumn approached we used to have an annual competition to see which columnist would first deploy the Keats line “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”. Someone always did, usually in a piece about the humble joy of the conker. Keats was a harbinger of the seasonal shift, much like darkening afternoons – and novelty coffees.
That’s right, novelty coffees. Starbucks kicks things off early in autumn with its pumpkin spiced latte (or “PSL” as I once heard a millennial call it), but this week my eye fell on an especially depressing Costa advert.
“I’m wishing for more reasons to be merry,” said the tag-line, next to a photograph of four Costa coffees – a winter roast cappuccino, a hazelnut praline latte, a Black Forest hot chocolate and something called a shimmer cortado, which is a coffee sprinkled with glitter. A perturbed gynaecologist recently felt the need to warn women against sprinkling glitter on their delicate bits this festive season, and although not a doctor I’m going to suggest that swallowing it isn’t much better. Although it does bring a whole new meaning to the expression “you can’t polish a turd”.
Sorry! Back to these coffees. The Costa drinks didn’t make me feel merry at all, although we cannot blame Costa alone for its attack of infantilism. Last week, Starbucks launched its Christmas menu. It includes a crème brûlée latte, a salted caramel brownie hot chocolate and a mysterious cold drink called a yule log to be unveiled in December. Forgive me if I’m not queuing up on the first day of Advent.
Over at Caffè Nero, you can slurp on a caramelised almond brittle latte, if you don’t die of old age before you finish ordering it. Mcdonald’s has also joined in with a millionaire’s latte – presumably floating with bits of soggy shortbread, drizzled with caramel.
What I object to isn’t the sugar content or the calories of these gloopy cups. Headlines often scream that there’s more fat in a venti-mochatriple-junkie-unicorn-latte than 12 Big Macs. The subtext is “Stop drinking them, you fatties”, which is patronising and nanny-ish. If I ever found myself in Costa with the man I loved, and he coyly ordered a winter roast cappuccino, I’d possibly think twice about having children with him. But it’s on the menu, so he has every right.
Instead, it’s our fetishisation of coffee that I mind. The turning of something simple into something so silly. It’s as if the various other pleasures these days have become so frowned upon that we have to get our kicks from increasingly desperate sources. Alcohol? Terribly bad for the liver, you should only have a thimbleful a week. Red meat? Makes the planet hot. A bowl of pasta? Pasta is gluten, you lunatic! But a big vat of coffee with a babyish name, dusted with glitter? Let me at it!
I imagine they’re drunk by the same people who refer to having a croissant for breakfast as “naughty”. It makes me sad. Sad for coffee, sad for mankind and perhaps most of all, sad for the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.