Please sign in to post.

Ordering Cappuccino - What went wrong?

Please help me understand whats going on here. On my morning walk today in Lens I stopped at a Bar/Tabac to order two cappuccino to bring back to our apartment. Standing at the bar I said "Deux cappuccino take-away s.v.p". I could see the espresso maker behind the counter and anticipated two steaming paper cups of real cappuccino. Instead, the woman behind the bar proceeded to open two envelopes of cappuccino mix and pour them into two ceramic cups, adding hot water from the espresso machine and some whipped cream.

After some discussion and realizing she needed to hear "deux cappuccino a porter" we got the whole mixture poured into a couple plastic beer glasses and I was on my way.

We've had take-away from countless bar/tabac over the years and haven't experienced this before.

So, my question is why the powdered mix, not the real thing, especially at a Bar/Tabac with a real espresso maker. Is this becoming more common?

Thanks,
Peter

Posted by
33130 posts

You could have ordered French coffee instead of Italian, in France....

Posted by
7657 posts

It is hard telling if anything "went wrong", but to Nigel's point "Cafe au Lait" would have been more typical.

Posted by
10298 posts

I'm surprised that you've been doing this successfully for years. In France? I've seen coffee in paper cups only at the stations or the recently arrived Starbucks.

Posted by
7050 posts

To use a powdered mix sounds downright sacreligious. I think if this happened in Italy, someone would be going to jail pronto :-) Seriously, this is a bar to stay away from because they don't know what they're doing (never mind the "take away" part). Sounds like they had no milk to be steamed either, so they substituted whipped cream.

Posted by
8171 posts

In France they make cappuccino differently than Italy. I have never had whipped cream and chocolate sprinkled on it in Italy where it is made much like a latte but with foam and of course with espresso. In France my husband inadvertently ordered it once and got this gooey concoction with whipped cream. If you want the French version of cappuccino you order a 'creme' or a 'cafe creme'. Cappuccino is not a French thing.

The French milky coffee drink is 'cafe creme' 'creme' or at breakfast some people still order cafe au lait but that is falling out of use or used in a hotel breakfast where they bring a separate pitcher of coffee and hot milk. At a bar to go, what you want is a 'creme'.

To order an Italian drink in a French bar suggests a Starbucks mentality. It is a France order a French coffee. If you are in Austria you would order a 'melange' for the local coffee/milk drink.

Posted by
534 posts

Thanks for all the responses. Yes, absolutely agree, choosing the wrong bar was the first mistake. I'll try "cafe au lait" or "cafe creme" tomorrow at a different place and see how that goes. I've really had no issues ordering take away coffee any place we've been though (parts of England, Wales, France, Italy, Germany, Poland, Croatia, Czech Republic, Belgium) , and it's always been in paper cups, although it's been a while since we've been back in France.

It's not the only thing that went wrong lately. We tried to squeeze in a visit to the Amiens Cathedral late today after Beaumont Hamel, and we know we were pushing our luck to get in because of the late hour. We zoomed into an underground car park near the Cathedral and managed to get to the front door exactly as they were kicking everyone out and closing it at 6:30pm. The good news is we know our way around the parking garage, but we'll try again tomorrow or the next day.

Peter

Posted by
534 posts

Yes, thanks Janet, I re-read your reply and didn't pick that up the first time, but will make sure to ask for that. Thanks.

Posted by
5837 posts

Appreciate the interesting discussion. I hadn't realized the complexity of ordering a coffee drink.

RE: If you are in Austria you would order a 'melange' for the local coffee/milk drink.
I ordered "cappuccinos" in Austria (and other Germanic countries - Germany, Switzerland, northern Italy) and got at least the American equivalent of cappuccinos without problem because "cappuccino" was the limit of my vocabulary. My language deficient strategy is to apologize for my ignorance and try to order in English.

Posted by
8594 posts

You mean I shouldn't order my usual "latte grande"? This is why Europe needs more Starbucks. (humor intended")

Posted by
10298 posts

Also it's à emporter, not a porter, for carry out. This was probably a little neighborhood place with the usual characters at the bar drinking their usual glass of morning red wine. Surely they too wondered what in the heck was going on with this English-speaker wanting to drink ersatz coffee in a plastic glass when you could have had a good glass of red, a boiled egg or a croissant.

Posted by
8171 posts

But what is travel for if not to learn how to order your favorite drinks in many languages? And there is always Starbucks.

Posted by
15993 posts

And there is always Starbucks.

Yes there is. And believe it or not, tasted much better in Paris than it does at home: not burnt. Their outlets were also very busy with Parisians, especially in the mornings, so they're not just there for tourists. We've found the same to be true in London, Amsterdam, Antwerp and Munich, so far. Funny, that, as it's not usually our choice at home but they're sure nice for grabbing the size-able take-away cup to hit the streets with.

Posted by
8171 posts

French coffee is hit or miss. Italy is the place to get terrific coffee. In Paris the best coffee place we have found is Cafeoteque located on rue Hotel de Ville on the right bank very near Pont Marie metro stop. They also have nice pastries and very good hot chocolate, but the coffee is the star. They roast it there, have several choices every day and make an excellent cafe creme as well as espresso straight up. There is also an excellent place in the 17th on or near Rue Batignolles but I can't recall the name.

Posted by
8293 posts

Note re pronunciation. The "creme" in cafe creme rhymes with gem (or hem or stem, etc.)

Posted by
9429 posts

I've had equally good coffee in France and Italy. Coffee anywhere can be hit or miss. I drank 1-3 café crèmes everyday for two weeks in Paris recently at different cafés all over Paris and they were all very good. My favorite coffee here in SF is Blue Bottle, as a reference... : )

Posted by
8171 posts

The test of coffee is an espresso; once you dilute it with milk in a latte or creme, it makes less difference. Italy has reliably the best espresso according to most of the coffee afficianados I know. YMMV of course.