Saturday, April 04, 2009

Is "Regular Coffee" an Obsolete Concept?

I came across this piece I wrote close to twenty years ago but never published. I was about to post it here without comment, but then I realized that the rant has probably lost its bite. Back then I could complain that there was no regularity to the term "regular coffee," but these days does anybody order coffee that way any more? I haven't asked for a regular coffee in years, and I don't think I've heard anybody asking for a regular coffee in years. I think the Starbucks phenomenon put an end to that. If you're not getting a cappucino or a latte, just a plain old brewed coffee, the milk and the half and half are out for you to lighten your own coffee. And in places that don't leave the milk out, people, including me, generally ask for "coffee with milk." But back in the old days, when we still ordered our coffee regular, I wrote . . .

Standards

At the risk of sounding like a cultural conservative, I feel compelled to say that we need standards--linguistic standards and coffee standards. I'm at the end of my rope. I can order a "regular" coffee at five different places and get five completely different results. It's ridiculous. Forget taste, I'm talking about color. One deli I go to always makes my regular coffee too dark, another deli always makes my regular coffee too light, sometimes I get lucky and my regular coffee is regular, but sometimes one counter man will make a perfect regular whereas another counter man at the same deli will make it too dark, and I have to remember which one is the dark coffee man so I can ask for my coffee on the light side of regular. Some places put sugar in my regular coffee, and in those places I have to remember to ask for regular no sugar, and that's assuming the color is good. On top of everything else, I'm told that in some cities a regular coffee is black. What good is a word like regular when nobody can agree on what it means? You'd think that if there were one word you should be able to count on it would be "regular."

6 Comments:

Blogger freddie said...

I had no idea there were standards to regular coffee. I thought it just meant "not decaf."

3:49 AM  
Blogger Ron Thorne said...

"Regular" coffee must be a regional concept, because I've never heard of it used in this manner.

10:58 PM  
Anonymous Jimmy Cantiello said...

Where I'm from a "regular coffee" meant a coffee with cream and sugar. Of course, that's open to interpretation. I like my coffee "dark, no sugar" so I always order black coffee with cream on the side so I can add the cream myself. If it's really good coffee then I take it black.

6:52 PM  
Blogger freddie said...

Hah, I just read (if I remember correctly) a Polish saying that asks for coffee with sugar, no milk: "Dark as the Devil, sweet as a stolen kiss."

Or something like that.

2:17 PM  
Blogger ©Denise-Marie Fisher aka Dreamsbyday said...

Brooklyn people will expect a regular coffee to have milk(on the light side)..and three sugars. (12 oz cup)
Not obsolete yet!Any deli or bodega will give it to you that way!If not...go to the next block!

1:28 AM  
Blogger Karen Cappadonna said...

Where I grew up in bergen cty NJ regular coffee is non caf. However Coffee Regular means with half n half juat til not too dark but not too light with sugar that is sweet enough to take out the bitter tastes but not much that it becomes a liquid candy. Now how do I order that? Cause I have a hard time getting it. Usually too light and not enough sugar.

11:17 AM  

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