Written Rambles 10 Obscure Words About America’s Favorite Morning Beverage Tyler Vendetti

I’m not a coffee expert. If I were, I would definitely not be whittling away at research papers for hours on end, hoping to uncover the “real” meaning behind Hamlet’s descent into madness. (In fact, such chores are last on my aspirations list, right behind “being chosen by Jigsaw” and “walking into a bees nest.”) However, just because I don’t have my P.H.D. in Cappuccino doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the magical elixir that spews from my Keurig every morning that turns me from a zombie back into a human being. In hopes of becoming more fluent in the art of “java,” I decided to combine my love of words with my affection for overpriced caffeinated drinks in the following list. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

1) Zarf (n.): cardboard sleeves for hot coffees

Why ask your friend to grab you a coffee sleeve when you could ask for a zarf instead? Sure, both words mean the same thing, but only zarf has the appropriate level of zing for America’s number one beverage, despite being one letter away from “barf.” Be sure to exaggerate this word in a loud, overly cartoonish voice or else it doesn’t count for anything.

2) Doppio (n./adj.): a double espresso; having two shots of espresso

A doppio is an obscure medical substance/Harry Potter spell used to restart a person’s heart when there aren’t defibrillators or pictures of Ryan Gosling around. (In fact, doppio is neither of those things, but I’m sure it could be.) In the real world (and not my imaginary dictionary), doppio refers to a coffee with two shots of espresso. Simple as that.

3) Monsooned Malabar (n.): coffee from south India deliberately exposed to monsoon winds in open warehouses; the process of exposing coffee beans to high winds and humidity

Coffee beans may be the only crop I know that actually benefit from extreme weather conditions. Then again, I don’t know much about crops so someone, feel free to enlighten me. Back in the day, ships transporting coffee beans from India to Europe would often take months to reach their destination. All that time on the high-seas caused the coffee beans to ripen and change. Though travel time has significantly decreased since the olden days, many people still prefer their coffee wind-swept, and so, the Monsooned Malabar tradition was born.

4) Jamoke (n.): a blend of java and mocha; a stupid person

What started as a fun word for mocha has developed a number of negative connotations over the years. Originally termed “jamocha,” jamoke refers to the mixture of java and mocha. Some say that, during World War II, this term began to be used for soldiers whose skin or intellect resembled the color of coffee. I personally prefer the term jamocha if only because it sounds like an altered version of Jamaica in a Jamaican accent.

5) Affogato (n.): ice cream drowned in espresso

An affogato is a hotter, more caffeinated version of an ice cream float but instead of root beer, it’s coffee. Which is to say, an affogato is a drink that involves submerging a scoop of vanilla ice cream in espresso. It is just as delicious as it sounds.

6) Quakers (n.): defective coffee beans that fail to roast properly

Not at all related to the religious group or the oatmeal company, quaker can also refer to a poorly roasted coffee bean. These are sometimes used as a reference point to determine the quality of a batch of coffee beans. (I’m guessing the exchange sounds something like: “Does this batch taste better or worse than the repulsive quaker bean?”)

7) Terroir (n.): the influence of geography, geology, and climate on a coffee’s taste

Contrary to what you might have thought for a split-second, terroir is not just a French spelling of terrier. It’s a little bit more complicated. In simple terms, terroir is how the environment affects the taste and quality of a food or beverage, like coffee, wine, tea, chocolate, or even cannabis.

8) Estaminet (n.): a small café

Unsurprisingly, this word comes from the French and refers to a small café that sells snacks or drinks (sometimes, alcoholic ones). This word is only notable for its ability to make you sound super cultured.

9) Dregs (n.): the remnants of a liquid left in a container (including the grounds)

If you were wondering if there was a word for “the coffee grounds that collect at the bottom of the cup” that more appropriately fit its grossness, here ya go. I hope it enhances your complaining experience.

10) Alkaline (n.): a supplemental coffee taste sensation characterized by a dry sensation at the back of the tongue

Basically, a fancy word for bitter (or acidic). That is all.

Honorable Mention – Sipster (n.): a loyal customer

In his New York Times article on local coffee slang, Ben Schott notes how one café owner described his loyal customers as “sipsters” and I’ve now made it my life goal to bring it back into circulation. Apparently, it can also refer to “hipsters who insist on porcelain rather than to-go cups,” which is an equally delightful definition.

On that note, what’s your favorite coffee slang term (either real or a figment of your own creative imagination)?

Image via Shutterstock.com. Info via OneLook.com.

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  1. Amazing article, I too love Love Actually…just a geeky correction alkaline is kind of the exact opposite to acidic…
    :)