A Stranger in America A Regular Day for a Café
By: Hatem Dhwibi
Today was a regular day. It was spent like how regular days were spent back in my country. Waking up late, having a café, then back home. Not any type of café, precisely an espresso. I am addicted to espressos. It took me so long though to figure out that there are places here who serve espresso. It is weaker here, not like the one strong shot I used to have that makes the eyes flip around the head. A café for me is one of the means to unite people. Different people being in one place, sharing everything that can be shared, seats, cigarettes, stories, sharing happiness and pain…etc. A coffee place is where people are delighted, where the people are unrestricted.
Sweet Bay Coffee was my destination. First, the reason I am not trying to get any other type of other café in America is because I failed that test in my life. Some things really make no sense. When I first came, I went to a coffee shop. I didn’t know if they have the same as I used to have so I asked what they have. The waiter suggested ‘Latté’ as it is apparently the most popular one so I accepted, and at this point started the embarrassment. We went through the question/answer thing for about 10 minutes. She started investigating me with no stop more than the homeland security officer did; café latté or latte macchiato? What size, small or medium or large or grande? Hot, iced or frozen? What flavor, chocolate, vanilla, hazelnut, cinnamon, caramel, orange? …etc. I can’t remember all the questions I’ve been asked because they did not make sense to me especially as what I got at the end was a café with milk, but I remember three other names for the iced latte, ‘bootleg latte’, ‘ghetto latte’, and ‘poor man’s latte’. I didn’t like these variations too because they were somehow racist for me as a black middle man from the south. Anyway, since that investigation I’ve decided that I will only have an espresso no matter what.
I wasn’t questioned in the Sweet Bay Coffee because all I’ve asked was one shot of espresso. Sweet Bay Coffee is a decent shop that has been happily serving Fort Smith, Arkansas area since 1996. The prices are affordable, their menu is long as a valley walkway but no one would complain because people have different tastes. They have cold drinks such as root beer float which is only 3.79$, mocha shake for 4.39$, Vietnamese French coffee for 3.69$. They have tea or ‘Chai’ as in Arabic for 3.49$. They have hot drinks like hot chocolate and steamer for 2.79$ a single and 3.09$ for a double. They have pizzas, Panini, sandwiches, wraps…etc, but I was only there to have an espresso.
The place was quiet and peaceful. I love coffees so I will for sure learn more about the ‘Americano café’, about the ‘mocha’, the ‘latte’ and the ‘macchiato’. As so far, I’ve learnt that all the types are derived from the espresso. The ‘macchiato’ or ‘cortado’ as it is called in Mexico, is an espresso with a small amount of milk, usually foamed. ‘Mocha’ or ‘mocaccino’ or ‘mochachino’, is mainly made of chocolate, espresso and hot milk. The name ‘mocha’ is derived from the city of ‘Mocha, Yemen’, which was one of the centers of early coffee trade.
Coffee makes me happy, so we call a sad coffee a despresso.