tales of a coffee rookie : half is the new whole?

Some of you know that after a seven-year hiatus, I've returned to coffee. I'm back. And I'm giddy about it.

However, navigating the current coffee world is a challenge I feel unprepared for. The only thing I can compare it to is as though I was last dating at age 13 before cell phones and internet and adolescence, and am now back on the scene trying to apply those rules to 30-something's. I'm shy. I'm hesitant. And things really have changed.

What better place to practice than Portland and at the moment, I'm staying just a couple blocks from Stumptown Coffee's Belmont Street location. Cozy and inviting for most, intimidating for me. But feeling ever so determined, I set out on Friday to order my very first Americano.

Since getting back on the wagon in January, I've only ordered cappuccinos. Baby steps. The last time I was drinking coffee every day, it was a matter of bodega vs Starbucks and maybe a cappuccino on a special occasion after dinner. But I've gathered that these days, we are to be drinking special coffees, special names, special standards, special preferences.

Observing my friends order Americanos indicated that it would be a less rich option. So I went for it last week and cautiously requested one at Stumptown. No reactions or tricky questions from the barista, I felt a sense of relief. He prepared a 12 ounce for me and pointed to the counter when I requested milk with it.

This is where things went downhill.

Alone on the counter sat a carafe of half-and-half and soy milk. I was perplexed. I'd never been one to half-and-half my coffee before. I stood there, unsure and likely furrowed, and turned to the guys to ask if they had any regular milk. Bad feeling kicked in. There must be a reason that it's not out there to begin with. Bad feeling confirmed when he politely said, Sure, and passed me the plastic jug of whole milk, clearly not intended for use by customers. I knew I'd blown my cover as a casual expert.

I can't go through this without support, so after sheepishly pouring my milk and running out, I called my friend and connesieur Amanda, who gently confirmed my deviance --- yes, half-and-half is what's intended. She reassured me that some people do ask for milk and that it's accepted, while not encouraged. And she was right. The espresso with water would have really benefited from a smoothing element of cream.

(Images via FlickSpin)