Mike watched the electronic boards flicker round to the inevitable delayed notifications. Not only was he now going to miss the first hour of the conference, but he also knew he would be forced to hang around in a ridiculous coffee shop for an hour whilst the rail network corrected itself and provided the transport he had paid for. There was a collective sag of shoulders on the platform. Mike sauntered out of the station amongst the other dejected commuters in search of the nearest place to get a drink.
Standing alone, tight up against the embankment wall of the train station, he spotted a glinting metal building, with a dark cobalt roof. Through the long glass window he saw what appeared to be a stainless steel counter. Just outside, a black sandwich board wobbled slightly in the morning breeze. In simplistic writing the word ‘Coffee’ had been emblazoned in blue chalk. This was enough to entice him in.
The Peoples ‘ethically sourced coffee’ he read in monochrome arch above the doorway. He saw most of the commuters wandering away in other directions, which suited him just fine. Why would he want to spend the next hour awkwardly exchanging glances with people who believed they had a common late commuter cause or worse still, tried to engage him in pointless, mind-numbing conversation.
‘Peoples coffee’ was remarkably quiet for an early morning. In fact, there appeared to be only one other customer. As the door closed with a click, the noise seemed to prompt the bearded chap at one of the tables to spring into action. It turned out the presumed customer was actually the staff, even better.
‘Morning’ the bearded chap chirped, and welcome to Peoples coffee. What can I get for you? he said moving round to the other side of the counter. The newly identified barista looked to be a hipster type, with a smart black and silver apron. He had a sallow complexion and piercing eyes. His sad clothes on the other hand looked like they may well have been rescued from a skip.
Mike reviewed the chalkboard behind the barista. It was difficult to focus on. The writing seemed too small to read and was jumping around all over the place. He knew at some point soon he was going to have to give in to age and get glasses, vanity would push him to hold off for now though. Forcing his hand he knew he would just have to ask for something and hope it was on the menu. Surely coffee was coffee though? Giving customers every possible combination or version of the same drink always seemed a bit pompous and unnecessary. You make a coffee, maybe you put in too much milk, that’s a latte. On the way back to the cupboard you spill some cocoa on top, now it’s a cappuccino. These so-called coffee experts needed to get over themselves.
‘Would you like some assistance choosing your drink Sir’ said the barista. I can offer several excellent recommendations.
‘Just something simple will be fine’ Mike mumbled. He was already flustered by the thought of the myriad of questions about to come his way. He glanced around the café. There were several chairs and tables, none of which seemed to match. This was in stark contrast to the gleaming metal counters and floors. Must be a new hipster style thing, still odd though.
‘Of course, Sir, we have some amazing choices today that I can grind for you fresh. May I recommend the Tongan, smoky and sweet? Or perhaps our Javan lava blend, it’s infused through the volcanic rocks and topped with a bitter chocolate note. Very satisfying’ he grinned. The baristas teeth looked sharp and grey; the incisors, in particular appeared almost triangular.
‘Does it taste like coffee? Mike offered sarcastically. If it tastes like coffee, I will just have that. I don’t really care.
The barista looked confused and a little hurt. ‘They are all different sir, coffee, in the right hands is like a good wine or whisky, they all have different notes depending on the blend, a different feel on the tongue’
‘The first one will be fine’ Mike sighed. This guy was going to end up wearing this coffee if he carried on.
‘Sure, no problem. The barista turned and selected a mason jar of beans from a range behind him. He popped open the lid with long delicate fingers and swirled the jar round in front of him, inhaling deeply from the rattling contents as if reviewing a good merlot. His chest audibly crackled slightly as he breathed out. Probably the unethically sourced rollups Mike thought.
The barista smiled again at Mike. ‘I just love this one though, so smoky, leathery, salty’. He closed his eyes for a second.
Mike just stared at him. He found this approach was best in dealing with people when the words that were forming in his brain were so unpleasant.
‘And what about the milk sir?’
Here we go again.