In my opinion, few things encapsulate the run up to Christmas in London so much as the appearance of the red cups at Starbucks. Not somewhere I usually frequent, at this time of year I make an exception.
I looked up at the menu board. It would have to be a gingerbread latte, with whipped cream of course. “How many shots of that syrup do you put in” I asked the young boy serving me. “Well, it depends on what size you have” he replied. I looked at the small – more like a medium, the medium – more like a large, and the large – a veritable bucket. “Okay, let’s say a small” I said. “That’s three shots”. “Can you make it just one and a half please” I asked him, “And, I’ll have another one just regular”.
“Nutmeg on the top?” he asked. ‘Yes please, and cinnamon”. “That’s over there by the milk” he said pointing further down the cafe. “Great! And, both extra hot please”. “No problem” he said. “What’s your name?” “Bruschetta” I replied.
He looked at me with raised eyebrows. “Really?” “Yes” I replied without pausing.
“Two gingerbread lattes for Bruschetta” he called out to his fellow barista at the coffee machine. “That’s my Starbucks name” I said, smiling. “It’s a bit long” he said. “Why don’t you shorten it?” Thinking that would be the least of his concerns with my ‘name’, I said “No! That’s what it is and I’m not changing it for anyone”. We both tittered away merrily.
I walked away from the counter to find the cinnamon, and moments later heard the barista shout out: “Two gingerbread lattes for Bruschetta!” A few people looked up as I made my way back to the counter and picked up my red cups. “No need to put the lid on that one” I said. “I like to eat the topping first – otherwise it just melts into it and you may as well never have had it”.
I asked for a spoon and dipped it into a soft swirled mountain of cream, scooping up a mouthful decked with a sprinkling of powdery cinnamon and nutmeg. It dissolved almost instantly. I took a sip of my latte and the first taste of the festive season was upon me: Spicy, warm and comforting.