After her bitch of a morning, Cally needed a coffee. She scanned the monolithic product board covering the wall behind the counter, looking for something simple.
‘Welcome to ‘The Fresh Cup. I’m Merv. How may I serve you today?’
Merv wore a staff waistcoat at least a size too small. The buttons appeared about to fire off at any moment under the strain. He pushed his horn rimmed glasses up his nose and smiled.
‘Just a coffee, thanks.’ Cally just needed a burst of caffeine.
‘I can recommend the Mint Chip Choca Cappucino, or perhaps, considering the weather, you’d prefer that as a Frappacino.’
Taking his glasses from his nose, Merv untucked a corner of his shirt and wiped both lenses, one after the other, before placing them once again on his nose.
‘Just a coffee, please.’
‘Or there’s our new Orange Java Chip Frappa.’
Cally looked up at the board.
‘Don’t you have, like, a regular coffee?’
Merv looked about himself as if he had forgotten where he was. He looked at the board before finally turning back to face Cally.
‘No one should drink regular coffee.’ He stepped back from the counter as he said this and looked Cally up and down. ‘I have just the thing.’
He turned to the complicated aparatus behind him and began slamming the knockbox to dislodge the expresso puck inside.
‘How does a Freshspresso sound? I can do you a Cherry Almond Freshpresso Swirl. Or perhaps you’d prefer the Gingerbread and Caramel syrup?’
Merv began clattering filters and switches and things began to bubble and froth.
‘I can do both of those as a latte if you prefer.’
‘I just want a coffee.’
Merv stopped what he was doing and turned.
‘Now there’s no need to get snippy.’
‘Snippy?’ Cally said. ‘Snippy? This is a coffee shop, right? You sell coffee? I have that right, you do sell coffee? Just that if you don’t, maybe trading standards might need to pay a visit here to put you straight.’
Cally waved her mobile at Merv. Both of them looked at the phone, unsure of exactly why Cally was waving it around like a vampire victim with a crucifix.
‘I just want a coffee,’ she said again before stuffing her phone back in her bag.
Merv waited until the phone was stowed away before speaking.
‘This is a speciality coffee emporium where you will find only the finest species and varieties of coffee. The Fresh Cup prides itself on being the premium coffee experience on the high street today, able to produce a cup of everything from Hawaiian Kona to Ethiopean of both the Harar or Sidamo variety, whichever you desire.’
Merv crouched down behind the counter, reappearing seconds later, slamming a heavy brown coffee chest in front of Cally.
‘This humidor contains two kilos of the most expensive coffee in the world, Indonesian Kopi Luwak, made from the beans of coffee berries that have been passed through the digestive tract of the Asian Palm Civet. As they pass through the bird’s intestine, proteolytic enzymes seep into the undigested beans which yield and aromatic and much less bitter coffee.’
Cally looked at the esoteric looking padlock and clasp that fastened the chest.
‘Seriously,’ she said. ‘You are seriously trying to sell me coffee made from bird shit.’
‘I assure you, the blend is washed clean of any harmful organisms and made further safe through subsequent roasting of the beans.’
Cally stared at Merv.
‘I see,’ Merv said and put the chest back under the counter.
‘Just a regular coffee, please.’
Merv sighed, then turned to a small pot and percolator. He began to scoop in grounds from a tin marked simply ‘coffee,’ his back to Cally and she thought she heard a small sniffle accompany each scoop of coffee into the filter of the machine.
‘Are you crying?’
Merv flicked on the pot and turned to face her. Tears were slipping down his cheeks and he wiped them away with a paper napkin from the stand beside the till.
‘Philistines,’ he said, ‘bloody philistines.’
Merv looked over Cally, the sudden steel in his eyes forcing her to step back a pace.
‘The Fresh Cup goes to all the trouble of importing coffees from around the world and crafting them into innovative and frankly beautiful beverages the likes of which the customer can’t find anywhere else, and what does the customer ask for? Regular coffee. I prepare connoisseur coffee for people who can’t tell the difference between a latte macchiato and a caffè macchiato. What bloody good is that? What bloody good am I?’
Cally listened to Merv rant as the coffee fizzed and popped beside him.
‘That’ll be two seventy-five.’ Merv said , pouring her coffee into a paper cup. His eyes bulged large behind the lenses of his horn rimmed glasses as he pressed the plastic lid on top.
Cally paid, Merv completing the transaction in silence before turning his attention to the chugging, frothing stainless steel coffee laboratory behind him.
‘Thanks,’ Cally said to Merv’s back.
Cally picked up her coffee and left, surprised at her own lack of anger at being spoken to in such way. She wondered what could make someone so uptight about someone else’s choice of coffee and completely forgot what it was about her morning that had left her needing the drink in the first place.