when skinny's not skinny

Caffeine Ani's got a new pet peeve.

As most of you will know by now I'm a skinny cap girl.

Figure 1: a fine example of a Melbourne Skinny Cap
Chapel Street, circa January 2008

I love my milk smooth and creamy, I never take sugar, but I sure do like that little touch of chocolatey sweetness on the top, hence why I've always had a preference for cappuccino over a latte.

Exceptions to this rule occurred in Seattle where I discovered cappuccino means half a cup of over-boiled milk with washing-up foam on top. Thankfully due to the obliging self-service nature of the chocolate sprinkles in most establishments, I found I could ask for a latte for the perfect milk consistency and self-serve my own chocolatey goodness. Result!

You can't imagine the relief of this discovery, visiting Seattle was practically a pilgrimage for little ol' Anibucks. In my former years, many an hour had been wiled away sitting in the cosy armchairs of that famous Seattle-born coffee house overlooking Edinburgh castle. Four years in Perth having to sit on the flimsy Parisian style cafe chairs of Dome cafes - the closest thing Perth had to a 'bucks - had left me reminiscing and glassy eyed at the prospect of visiting the motherland.

Anyhoo, the one thing that never changes about my cap is the "skinny" part.

Non-negotiable non-fat.

So just now, when I got my skinny cap and the chap before me got a regular latte. Why was the milk poured from the same jug?

I even asked the lady what milk she used and she replied "you asked for skinny, yeah?". Very clever answer Mrs Politician Lady. Clarify what I asked for not what you gave me. I see your game.

It's all in the ordering.

Ask the right questions, use the right phrase and you'll land the magic word that gets you what you're after. "Skinny" might work in most places, "non-fat" might in others, or it might just get you a quizzical look.

The coffee shop downstairs from my old work in Perth even had it's very own codes. After months of asking for my usual skinny cap, I was served by a new guy who unwittingly asked me "is that hi-lo or blue-cap?"

Uh. Wha??

See in that particular cafe, "skinny" meant Hi-Lo - otherwise known as "semi-skimmed" for the Brits, what would that be for the Americans - 1%/2%? - and if you wanted actual skinny, non-fat, milk you needed to ask for "blue cap" because that's the colour of the lids on the bottles their non-fat milk used to come in.

Which incidentally is a whole other thing. In the UK red meant skimmed... eek I can't even remember what semi-skimmed and full fat were... were they blue and green? Anyways, in Oz it's not as standardised so to add to the confusion the "blue cap" milk this cafe now used was actually poured out of a bottle with a YELLOW lid. Go figure.

I'd been ordering the wrong thing all those months but I sure did feel very daft when I upgraded to ask for a "blue cap cap".

It wasn't all Dome and blue cap caps in Perth, there were some fabulous gems of coffee shops, and of course Melbourne too sure knows how to make a decent cup of coffee - in fact, they're famous for their laneways and cafe culture don't doubt it's half the reason we moved here. But despite the fantasticness of the coffee and the creativity of the latte art, Ani wants some standards. I need to know what to ask for and what I'm going to get.

I'm a simple minded lass and don't forget most of these transactions occur before I've had my coffee, the brain's not in gear yet.



kathrynoh said...

I hate that. I went to a new coffee shop that opened near here and asked for a skinny latte. The dude said - we don't have skinny milk but I can say it's skinny if you want!!!

I never went back.

Cinders said...

Try being a decaf soy drinker - I'm sure I am being served regular coffee half the time.

ani pesto said...

@kathryn - ugh! don't blame you. So cheeky

@Cinders - oooh no kidding, that's gotta be hard and if you don't drink much caffeine I'll bet the buzz is a giveaway if you have been served wrongly

this thing is wider than I thought ;-)

Elsha said...

Someone once told me that using real skimmed milk for lattes and caps is not very good because it does not froth up as well as say, Hilo or full fat milk.

I must admit, I hate the taste of skim milk .... it has this dry, weird taste at the back of the throat.

I do sometimes order skinny lattes but usually if I have a shot of caramel or vanilla, it can drown out the skim taste.

everynow and again I will have a regular latte....ahhhh BLISS!

ani pesto said...

@Elsha - isn't that funny, I guess it's all down to whatever we get used to. I feel the same way about full fat milk. I can't stand the aftertaste I get, I feel like my mouth's lined with gloop.

Skimmed milk's a bit like diet coke is for me - I've grown so accustomed to the taste I'd drink them over their originals even if I wasn't watching my weight any more.

On the best milk for foaming question, I heard the total opposite - that the less fat, the easier to foam. I've been trying to get better at making my own at home so reading up on this stuff (you can imagine how costly this caffeine habit can get, don't you know there's a recess... umm economic downturn Ani?) this chap says non-fat is the best for steaming but like you he doesn't like it for taste

Anonymous said...

Hi chick, just catching up on what I missed while I was away! :)

Something disturbing for you: at the cafe/restaurant Miles works at, they don't have skinny milk at all, only full fat, because it's too much trouble for them to buy too many different types of milk. So people who ask for skinny are given full fat. Dodgy hey? Miles reckons lots of cafes do it. :( I do suspect that my fave cafe around the corner uses low fat or full fat rather than skinny, because the coffee there is always sooooo creamy and delicious. I don't really care because it's only a once-in-awhile treat, but I imagine all those extra grams of fat would add up for a regular coffee drinker!

ani pesto said...

@Miss M - wow, always suspected as much but that's pretty blatant hey