I guess you might call it a case of mild reverse culture shock. Although I’ve returned to the UK regularly since emigrating, nearly ten years ago, each time I come back there is usually something about British Culture that feels somewhat alien to me.
For example, this time around it’s coffee. I’m amazed at how much coffee is consumed in Britain; there are now as many coffee shops as there were once pubs, where it’s not unusual to see people drinking caffine-based beverages in quantities you’d once-upon-a-time have associated with beer. The average coffee cup seems big enough to hold a whole pint (500ml), and a “small” coffee equates to something half-pint sized.
In France the biggest, or rather “longest”, of coffees might come close to a small British one, but that’s where the similarity ends. In France coffee is usually consumed in receptacles not much bigger than a shot glass. Quantity, in addition to quality I might add, is what seems to matter to the UK consumer.
Having come accustomed to enjoying just two “petits noirs” per day in France, my consumption in the UK is regarded as somewhat pathetic. After all, the total amount of black liquid passing between my lips would barely cover the bottom of a Starbuck’s “tall” paper cup.
So whenever I walk into a British coffee shop and ask for an espresso it is usually assumed that I’m a bit thick and need some help with my order:
Single or double?
A single espresso?!
Just a single?That’s all?
Do you want an extra shot?
It’s not very big.
It’s as if they’re embarrassed to serve so little, or indeed, find a cup small enough to make it look like more than a dribble. And then there’s the surprise, once the coffee has been placed on the counter, that I don’t complain for getting such a Lilliputian quantity.
Thank you, that’s lovely.
Now that’s what I call un café; though I’m sure thousands wouldn’t.