So there I was, taking in the latest articles from the Lifestyle section of the Farm & Ranch Guide, as one is wont to do, when I came across an article titled When did it become so difficult to order a cup of coffee?

In it, columnist Doreen Rosevold details a difficult experience she had trying to navigate the bizarre otherworldliness of the modern specialty coffee shop. And reader, I need you to believe me when I tell you that this 100% without a doubt definitely happened.

The experience, per the author, took place at a “high-end coffee place” with an “edgy and uptown” atmosphere. But the troubles were about the start. “I perused the menu board… and suddenly felt like I was in a foreign country. What in the heck is an Affogato or a Café Con Leche?” she said of the Italian- and Spanish-named drinks.

And while trying to recombobulate after the gobsmacking foreignness of it all, Rosevold heard this completely real order: “The young, twitchy girl ahead of me confidently ordered above the hiss and steam and grinding sounds, ‘I’ll have a Trenta, double shot Con Panna, low fat with room.'”

A trenta, double shot Con Panna, low fat with room. Let’s parse that out real quick.

advert but first coffee cookbook now available


A double shot con panna, a beverage found on cafe menus around the world, is a double espresso topped with whipped cream. Trenta is a size designation reserved for 31oz iced beverages. Low fat, a common modifier for milk-based beverages, has no place in an order that uses heavy whipping cream. Neither does “with room”—with roughly four ounces of espresso and whipped cream, there’s about 27oz of room in that trenta cup. This drink was certainly ordered exactly as stated because this is a true story.

After comparing baristas to race horses, the author tries to order her drink, a coffee with milk, and when she is pressed on what size she wants, she must choose between tall, grande, venti, or trenta. She chooses the small, gets correct on the correct nomenclature, and after some reconsidering, opts for coconut milk as cow’s milk hasn’t been sitting well with her. The total cost of that beverage? $7.00.

Now you are probably saying, “LOL the fancy coffee shop she’s talking about is a Starbucks. They’re the only place that uses those sizes.” But if that were the case, the small/tall coffee with a coconut milk upcharge would cost anywhere between $2.70 and $3.05. And her drink in this non-fictional account was $7. Clearly, this was not a Starbucks but some other, fancier coffee place that actually exists.

A Brief History Of The Specialty Coffee Menu

There’s some kvetching about baristas not knowing what to do with cash—any maybe being offended by a $.50 tip?—about not knowing how lines work, or having any idea about condiments counters. In the end, all the author wants is to one day “bark into a microphone, ‘One Venti Aero Press, triple shot skinny, and just see what happens.”

The entire tale needs to be read to be fully appreciated. But here’s the thing, real or not, there is some truth to what the author is trying to express. While the notion of completely fabricating a situation to get mad about is not great—and this story is some sort of perverse ideation on drink shaming at “fancy coffee shops”—it can nonetheless be intimidating to go into a cafe if you don’t know the names of the beverages and don’t understand the language of the modern coffee shop. And it’s these expectations of alienation—a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy for a bad time—that specialty cafes have to account for and overcome if they want to create truly welcoming spaces for all. And that goes for more than just old rural white women, but people of color, those with queer identities, the economically disadvantaged, and individuals with disabilities (to name only a few).

But there’s another lesson here too. Get comfortable with discomfort. If I, for instance, had to go to a feed store or some emporium of goods with which I had little to no knowledge, I would feel uncomfortable. No one wants to be made to feel stupid for not possessing some inside baseball knowledge, and putting yourself in a situation to show exactly how little you know isn’t entirely fun, but we’re never going to learn anything if we aren’t willing to get out there and try. And chances are, we aren’t going to get shamed, not like this story seems to think. Be ok not knowing, ask questions, learn. Life is much better when you aren’t constantly waiting to be put out.

Or, you know, completely fabricate a 100% real story relying on tired, decades-old tropes about coffee shops. It really happened. I was there, I saw it.

Zac Cadwalader is the managing editor at Sprudge Media Network and a staff writer based in Dallas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.