Post from my Dad

I’m back in Ireland for a few days, and had to listen to my parents talk about their most recent trip abroad. Normally its a dreary experience, that i politely sit through, but I thought it’d be fun if Dad shared this one with you.

“On a recent trip to Chicago , my wife Geraldine and I were strolling down West Randolph in the Loop when what should we see but an impressive coffee bar with the familiar Intelligentsia logo above the door. It was familiar because our son Stephen had already installed Intelligentsia mugs and coffee in our kitchen back home in Ireland some years previously, and very nice coffee it was too.”

The place was busy but we reached the counter quickly. Geraldine ordered a cappuccino and a pastry and I asked for a ‘flat white’ only to be met with a blank look. I explained that it was a common coffee drink that I’d tasted in London and that, as far as I could tell, it was made from a double espresso topped up with warm milk in a smallish cup.

We picked up our order further down the bar. Geraldine’s cappuccino, dispensed by a serious looking big guy, looked great with perfect latte art. He handed me a very small glass containing  espresso with a perfect small heart poured on top. Not what I expected but I said nothing and we turned our attention to finding a seat; not easy. All tables, indoor and outdoor, were occupied, some with customers who, judging by the laptops, books and stationery looked like they were there for the day, perhaps for the week.

Not sure what to do, Geraldine approached the counter and asked if it would be OK to share a table with those already installed.  The barista behind the bar smiled and said, ‘sure, get acquainted’. So we sat ourselves down.

Geraldine thought her cappuccino was one of the best she had ever tasted, a comment Stephen doesn’t seem to appreciate. My coffee was fine but so small I had to resist the temptation to drink it all in one go and sip it instead to make it last. A gentleman at an adjoining table turned aside from his Mac and asked me the name of the coffee I was drinking. I explained that I had ordered a ‘flat white’ but had got what in Spain would be called a ‘cortado’. He digested this information without comment. I’m still not sure what a flat white is, or what exactly I got served.

When we were leaving, my wife Geraldine mentioned to the barista that our son, Stephen Morrissey said the coffee here would be excellent and that indeed it was. This didn’t seem to register with the barista, despite our son’s boasting about his far flung fame. We were gutted.

He seemed more interested in my comments about ‘flat whites’ and their origins in Australia. This was a drink, he said, that he’d already received several requests for so he guessed that he would have to do ‘further research’.

All in all, it was nice to experience one of the places that had made such an impression on Stephen in his coffee travels.

Brendan Morrissey




16 thoughts on “Post from my Dad

  1. The barista had never heard of Stephen Morrissey?

    Interesting. What are they teaching them up there, anyway? How to not follow industry news?

    From what I understand, a flat white is a very wet cappuccino made with a double shot.

  2. I’m sure they just get so many people in there claiming to be relatives of Stephen. Happens all the time, I’m sure ;-)
    Thanks for sharing the experience Brendan.

  3. Don’t do it. I said His Name Which Cannot Now Be Mentioned three times two days ago and only reappeared from the vortex just now. Scary.

    But really, I don’t think we should be too surprised. The permeation of the barista competitions throughout the rank and file of baristas in the United States has been poor indeed. Those who may have heard about the competitions are unlikely to know the names of the champions. Unfortunately, our competitions still occupy a vague and removed niche of the industry where only the truly hardcore and fanatical actually can name the current champion, much less the last five champions.

    If only I could get my parents to get away from Taster’s Choice…

  4. Thanks for the comments all, just two things;

    This post wasn’t intended to highlight any downfalls in the Intelligentsia cafe, my parents really found it all completely charming and loved experiencing a cafe of that standard so close to their hotel.

    Neither my parents or me believe people in cafes should know my name.

    The real trick Ben is in saying my actual name backwards three times……

  5. I gave up on flat whites a long time ago. I swear we get a dozen requests for one, and every time we serve what we’ve been told is a flat white, they want something else.

    Stephen Who?

  6. I’m afraid Ryan is right, it seems (at least here in LA) my fellow country men are a little confused as to what a flat white is, at one point this used to anger me (read here)

    not so much now though…

    As for not knowing who Stephen is, well that is just a shame and we will make sure this is rectified. I know that I can’t go a day without thinking of Stephen, our Baristas need to know what joy that can bring to their lives!

  7. Hi Deaton,

    We miss you too ! The info in your wordpress on FLAT WHITES was very interesting and explains a lot.


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