18 Jan 2024

Coffee Etiquette

There are estimated to be over 24,000 coffee shops in the UK, and it is anticipated that coffee shops will overtake pubs in the next twelve years. As a nation, we are said to drink about 2.4 billion cups annually, and a fifth of us visit our local coffee shop daily.

Coffee has clearly become an integral part of the UK’s social culture, so it is time to look at coffee shop etiquette.

Ordering Takeaway Coffee

•Be decisive

Know what you want before you order; don’t hold up the queue by dithering over your choices. Coffee shops are often very busy places, so if you’re undecided, remove yourself from the queue until you know exactly what you want.

•Keep moving

Once you have ordered, move promptly along to the end of the counter where you will collect your order and have your payment card ready.

•It’s all in a name

Some large coffee shops and chains have adopted the American custom of asking for your name, which is then written on your takeaway coffee cup to avoid mix-ups over orders. If someone asks you for your name, don’t react as if your privacy has been violated. If you’re bothered about it, just give them a generic, short name (Bob, Sue, Ann, Tom etc).

If you have a long name, which might pose spelling and space challenges on the cup, for example ‘Persephone’ or ‘Willoughby’, give a shortened or adapted form, eg ‘Percy’ or ‘Will’. You don’t want to be painstakingly spelling out your name while a queue builds up behind you.

•Pay attention

It’s very rude to the harassed barista if you conduct the entire transaction while you’re chatting to someone else on your mobile phone. You might think you’re a master of multitasking, but you just come across as a boorish person who is treating serving staff with contempt.

•Be polite

Coffee shops can be frantic, bustling spaces, but that doesn’t mean you should be brusque or peremptory. Remember to smile, to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and keep the whole transaction courteous.

•Stand back

Stand back while you’re waiting for your coffee to be delivered and don’t jostle other customers.

•No crowding
Once you’ve got your coffee, you will probably have to go to a different counter to pick up sugar, stirrers, napkins etc. Space is always at a premium, so pick up what you want as quickly as possible and always be conscious of other people – say ‘excuse me’ if you need to reach past someone, don’t push.

•Dispose of the cup

Whether you’re picking up a coffee for a train journey, the office, or just proposing to sip your drink as you stroll along, be hyper-aware of the need to dispose of empty receptacles promptly, in litter bins. Never leave empty coffee cups on, for example, train carriage tables or on park benches, and be very mindful of wooden stirrers, which are often overlooked and carelessly discarded.

Drinking In

If you’re opting to drink a coffee at one of the tables provided, make sure you’re well equipped with paper napkins, so you can instantly mop up any spills or sugar scatterings and leave the table in a fit state for the next occupant. At busy times, tables are at a premium and harassed staff might not have time to whizz around with a damp cloth.

Coffee shops are great places to meet friends, take some time out during a busy day, or even plug in your laptop and get on with some work. In the middle of the day, when the rush hour has receded and the venue is peaceful and half-empty, it is fine to settle in with your mobile, laptop, book etc. But you should always be conscious of the ebb and flow of customers and make sure you’re not hogging a much-needed table while you linger over a single cup of coffee. If you’re in for the long haul, make sure you order more than one drink; coffee shops rely on a rapid turnover.

How to Drink Coffee

If you are indulging in a cup of coffee to drink in, think about the correct drinking etiquette:

•Coffee is served in a cup and saucer. Pick up the saucer with the left hand and use your right hand to raise the cup to your mouth. Don’t leave the saucer on the table while you’re lifting the cup.

•If you drink your coffee with sugar, stir it by moving the teaspoon from the bottom of the cup to the top (nor round and round). This will ensure that the foam on the top of the coffee is not deflated.

•Coffee is served with a teaspoon. If you have ordered a macchiato or latte, you can use the teaspoon to mix the layers of steamed milk and foam with the espresso base. Some experts recommend that cappuccino should not be stirred, but this is a matter of personal taste. Don’t raise the teaspoon to your mouth and always leave the teaspoon in the saucer when you have finished the coffee.


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