Java Jive

I just drank a cherry flavored latte. I'm aware that the very thought of this will turn most of your stomachs (the reality of it didn't do mine any favors), but if I take you through my journey, perhaps you'll understand...

Let us turn our minds back to the middle years of this nameless decade, when I was still a Sarasota girl, traipsing fancily across five points park on my daily journey from Starbucks to the Golden Apple, 5 shot raspberry iced white mocha latte in hand. Each pinkish sip was a transcendent pleasure, the tartness of the raspberry meeting the rich darkness of the espresso, sweetened by the white chocolate syrup, and tempered by the milk... the satisfaction was indescribable. But tragically, nothing that perfect is meant to last, and in early 2007 Starbucks changed their formula for raspberry syrup, renaming it "juicy raspberry" and making it redder, sweeter, and thicker. I tried to go on as if nothing had changed, sipping away, attempting to overcome the sugary taste of the syrup by adding a 6th shot of espresso... but the gooey clumps of juicy raspberry would stick in my throat, chocking me with their perversion of all that I had once adored. The baristas offered their condolences, but there was nothing they could do. The Starbucks over lords had made their choice, and we all had to live with it. I began ordering an unadorned white mocha, and tried to move on with my life.

Much has changed since those days. I finished college and left home, trading in my ritual daily jaunt through five points for a tense commute through the obstacle course of Los Angeles traffic, and these days when I order my iced white mocha, my longing for the raspberry of yore is but a distant memory. Or it was until my dear friend Adelaide casually mentioned on the phone last night that she'd tasted something that reminded her of "that pink coffee" I used to drink. Suddenly my long-buried desire came flooding back, and I was once again reeling, desperate to recreate the satisfaction of the latte-that-was.

I was struck by an idea: The Coffee Bean! For those of you outside of LA "The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf" is a local chain that's ubiquitous as Starbucks in these parts (and apparently now has locations in other areas as well). I have some issues with their white mocha lattes in general, because they're flavored with a powder rather than a syrup. In theory this isn't a bad idea, as it prevents that cloying sweetness that comes when a barista gets overly enthusiastic with the flavor pump, but it tragically leaves you vulnerable to the even less appealing problem of un-mixed lumps of powder. I'm also pretty sure that their large is smaller than a venti, but I don't have data to back me up.

Anyway, it occurred to me that since I don't normally drink there I'm not super familiar with their flavors and extras, and I indulged myself in the fantasy that maybe they had a raspberry syrup of their own. But my hopes were dashed when I went after work, and discovered upon a thorough examination of their menu that they don't even come close to starbucks in terms of customizable options (chocolate, vanilla and caramel were pretty much the only a la carte accoutrements). But there I was, determined to have a taste adventure. I told the barista that I wanted something new and different to add to my white mocha latte, and that I had no qualms about oddness. Some of her co-workers got in on the action, and together we decided to add a generous splash of the juice from a jar of cherries into their usual white chocolate concoction.

I can't claim to have enjoyed the resulting beverage, exactly. It was overwhelmingly sweet, and not the most natural of flavor combinations, but the look of the rosy brown liquid swirling around the ice in my plastic cup did give me a nostalgic twinge of pleasure. If there is a lesson to all of this, I suppose it's that you can't recreate the past. I'm in a very different place now than I was three years ago, both practically and emotionally, and no amount of artificial flavoring can make things as they were. But now that this flurry of caffeinated reminiscence has past, I can return to the business of embracing my life as it is, in a city that's infinitely more complicated, with a latte that's decidedly simpler.


Anonymous said...

Nameless? These are The Aughts!

Also, thank you for this. This is the best thing I've read about a beverage since the New Coke Wikipedia page.


Mimsy said...

I enjoyed the story, but as for the moral.. Remember that twangy tune, "I'm my own Granpa"?
Well, the sooner you're your own barista, the better.
Think of Mrs. Childs re-inventing what she enjoyed most, and adapt..
... WWJD? (What Would Julia Do?)
And be guided by your primary Guru:
There is no try. Brew {& blend} you must.

Anonymous said...

This is hands down the best thing anybody has ever written about beverages.

This is hands down the best thing anybody has ever written.

Olli Fierce

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