It is four o’clock as some friends and I mount the stairs in London’s famous Covent Garden, pleasantly over-stimulated by the passing shoppers dangling designer bags on their outstretched fingers and the sound of a traveling string quartet playing down below.
We round the corner to enter Le Pain Quotidien, a popular café chain in London known for its excellent coffee and baked goods. Now, I know that the fact that this particular café is part of an international chain may at first suggest a lack of appeal as a topic for a review, but I don’t find that to be the case.
This, my dear readers, is a love story, a tale of a brief but spectacular moment between a woman and a steamed beverage. Be it the actual quality of the café, a fateful brewing that serendipitously concocted genius, or my afternoon desperation for caffeine, this is a personal recollection of my mocha-flavored rendezvous in Covent Garden.
We enter the café and sit at a delicate white circle-table near the window, un-circling our scarves and removing our jackets as we take in our new surroundings. I graze my finger over the ivory pages of the menu, debating whether to give in to my hunger or to remain chaste. I settle my conflicting feelings by ordering a “mochaccino,” what I expect to be a café latte with a bit of chocolate to get me through the afternoon, and to quench my hunger…for now.
Moments later a small white teacup arrives, deeper than expected, on a delicate white tray. I immediately notice the constellation of chocolate powder that sinks ever so slightly into the frothy white foam. I tentatively lace my fingers into the handle of the cup, testing the heat and weight in my hand first. I don’t want to get hurt…
I lift the cup to my lips, allowing the foam to slide onto my upper lip as I wait for the mocha to reach my lips. Suddenly I allow the flavors of cream, coffee, and chocolate to wash over my tongue, but for a moment I pause-this wasn’t what I expected. Life was just fine before this beverage reached my table. Am I ready for this? Before my thoughts can settle, the cup is at my lips again. I can’t help myself; I must give in. I drink the whole cup, each sip better than the last, some with a more aggressive bite of coffee, some with the sweet and sensual emphasis of chocolate, and some sips with the warm, rich, comforting taste of cream.
My eyes flutter open as I realize what has happened, that this chance rendezvous has altered the course of my dinner, that I will never find a drink that makes me feel the way this one has. As we pay the check I glance one last time at the empty white cup, at the beige spotted shell of what once was my heavenly mochaccino. Looking away to conceal the pain in my coffee colored eyes, I know that I mustn’t regret such a brief rendezvous. I must look back on it fondly for what it was. I must try to be strong, be grateful that it poured into my life, steamy and delicious, making my life sweeter, if only for a moment.