Alex Casey conducts a highly scientific study into the gendering of your morning cuppa.
Gendering food and drink is all the rage these days, from National’s sausage sizzle innuendo to Whittaker’s new gender reveal chocolate bars. Blue for boys, pink for girls. Sausages for boys, clueless political chat for girls. It’s made some angry and some hangry, but the madness doesn’t stop at sexy solids. As a viral tweet recently reminded us, inane gender stereotypes can be just as readily applied to hot beverages, ascribing certain masculine and feminine qualities to your lovely morning cuppa.
For example, if I am with any form of man at any form of café, which happens at least once a year, my long black will first be offered to him without fail. Meanwhile, I am left with some milky, milky monstrosity that is frankly sexist because all it wants for my future is for my butt to explode in public. Determined to find out if I was alone in my frustrations, I reached out to hot drink consumers on the world wide web to gauge their experience with gendered java. Here are my findings.
Strong, aromatic, intense and no-frills, a long black apparently screams NO GIRLS ALLOWED as it makes its way across the café floor. “I order an Americano and my male partner orders a latte,” says Peggy, “when served, they assume the Americano is for him 80% of the time.” Demi was once asked by a male colleague if she drinks long blacks because her dad drinks them. “When I used to drink coffee,” says Jane, “my espresso always went to any bloke around.” Catch it if you can, Sheilas.
Ladies adore chocolate, just ask this chick and this chick and this chick. Due to their sweet and fluffy qualities, hot chocos always tend to gravitate to the damsels. “I always order a long back,” says Hayley, “and my husband always orders a hot chocolate with marshmallows. Often enough, people serving us will assume it is the other way around.” Carol has a similar problem. “My partner doesn’t drink coffee and they invariably try to give me his hot chocolate.”
This is a tricky balance of both the surly masculine covfefe and the sweet feminine choccie. But more often than not, you’ll see a mocha go to a lady. “My partner and I usually do both get long blacks, but he’ll delve into flat whites and mochas sometimes – they have fairly often been deposited in front of me instead.” One respondent replied with a different take altogether – she prefers to call them “choffees” instead of mochas. Regardless of where you sit on this issue, I think we can all agree that this is truly shocking.
Lattes and flat whites
It’s like it says in the Bible – the more the milk, the more likely a maid. “The man is always assumed to have the ‘strong, no nonsense’ drink, and me the milky flat white or latte,” says Holly. “When I worked at a cafe I used to make a point of serving black coffee to the woman (if I couldn’t ask).”
This was not a popular submission, but nonetheless provided this interesting observation from Ruth. “My husband and I both order (espresso) macchiatos. Frequently when I order they say ‘like .. a Starbucks caramel macchiato?’. My husband just gets taken at his word – he gets a normal macchiato.”
If there’s trim milk in the mix, you can bet all your Ashy Bines PDFs that it’s coming to you ladies – because we know how much you LOVE to diet and you HATE fat. “If the man I am with orders trim milk in his coffee,” says Belinda, “it usually gets given to me.” She followed her response with an unimpressed emoji, suggesting she is not overjoyed to receive the fitness milk. Renee has a suggestion. “I got so sick of getting my (male) partner’s trim flat white delivered to me, I started saying ‘…and I’ll get the fat please’.”
Coconut milk, oat milk, soy milk, rice milk – all will be headed to the women in the group. “I constantly get my husband’s coconut milk coffee in my pink-lid keep cup and my black coffee in his brown cup,” says Nemo. Science will tell you that women love to consume an array of different milks, that’s why they carry such big handbags. “My partner (a man) orders a soy flat white and I order a regular flat white,” says Wendy. “Soy always gets given to me.”
“My boyfriend’s decaf coffee always goes to me,” says Kendyll, “and he doesn’t drink alcohol so his mocktails etc always go to me too. I’ve always noticed it, but I wonder if he has.”
Apparently if there’s one thing ladies love more than diet, decaf and cups of milk, it’s herbs. “My husband drinks green tea and he always gets given my coffee and I get his tea,” says Victoria. “As if men are incapable of being conscious about getting their antioxidants, and as if I want his cup of lawn clippings in hot water.” Caroline has taken to physically diverting wait staff when they make a beeline for her with her husband’s green tea.
To be clear: none of this is “outrage”, none of this is “backlash”, but all of it is quite, quite funny. Working in hospitality is hard and stressful, and getting handed a milkier drink than you ordered is nothing worth shouting about – especially when there are gendered trends in ordering. “I’ve automatically given a beer to a man before and had it awkwardly passed over to the woman, who then might fairly assume I’m a horrible sexist,” says Ellie, who has worked in cafés in Wellington for years.
“I don’t blame servers for doing this though because it is so common and customers can be really derisive whether you get it right or wrong.”
Several people in hospitality also responded to say that the gendering of drinks is something they are aware of, and make conscious decisions to combat. “We carry the beverages and food to the table and say what the order is and wait for it to be claimed,” says café owner Nicole. “Otherwise all beverages get placed in the centre.” Anna-Rose noticed the trend in both hot drinks and alcohol, so hedged her bets every time. “I always offered the long black or beer to the woman just to make that small statement – always made me feel great when I was right too.”
The Spinoff’s food content is brought to you by Freedom Farms. They believe talking about food is nearly as much fun as eating it, and they’re excited to facilitate some good conversations around food provenance in Aotearoa New Zealand.