One Saturday my daughter and I were somewhere between her ballet lesson and a trip to Target for birthday party supplies. We needed small items of processed sugar and/or plastic to shove inside the piñata that would be destroyed in our front yard the following afternoon. And we needed a stick and a Twister game. It was shaping up to be a hectic weekend and before I could face the teeming humanity of Target, I needed some coffee bad.
Sizing up the options quickly I thought of all the places on nearby Campbell Avenue that might do the trick. Beyond Bread has a nice organic option, but they’re always insanely busy on weekends. Raging Sage is awesome, but on the wrong side of a daunting part of the street. There’s CoffeeXChange, but I really hate the preppie baristas at CoffeeXChange. How about Caffe Diva? I think I’ve been there before and it’s an easy right turn.
My daughter wasn’t too excited about stopping for coffee, but she was easily persuaded by the promise of some kind of baked good.
We went inside the place, a late 90’s retrofit of a late 70’s Dunkin’ Donuts. But the Dunkin’Donuts never had that fake rock cave entrance by the restrooms, did it? And didn’t Dunkin’ Donuts used to smell a lot more like coffee this place does now?
I felt a bit wary, but I knew that with a six year old in tow, cutting and running without a scone or a cookie in hand would be highly problematic. Besides, it wasn’t her fault this place was going to suck.
We approach the counter and order from a college girl who had nowhere near the proper surl or disaffected nature of a competent barista. Hot chocolate formy daughter and a large coffee for me. The kid and I were discussing the options in the bakery case. The blueberry muffins looked adequate, but hey, how about the scone? “She probably would like the muffin better,” said the barista. Weird bathroom cave was strike one, this was strike two. What the hell does this little college girl, who has no idea what it was like to spend childhood under the constant cloud of Reagan Era immanent mutual assured nuclear destruction, know about what kind of baked good my daughter would like? We might live in Tucson now, but that little girl cut her teeth on blueberry scones in fantastic coffee shops all over Portland, OR.
You don’t know what six year olds like. Don’t pretend that you do.
“I want the muffin,” my daughter said, her voice just above a whisper. Fine. Let the college girl have this one. At least I was getting coffee, good old fashioned proletarian drip coffee.
The college girl’s cohort, another college girl, served up our drinks. My daughter’s hot chocolate had whipped cream on it and she found the spoons, so she was happy. I, on the other hand, felt my waryiness plunge into full blown skepticism upon the presentation of my 20 oz Dixie cup full of a hot, dark amber liquid. My zombie-like reflexes had me pouring the half ‘n’ half already, so I took a taste.
Let’s say it reminded me of my common morning desperation at home when I pour another round of hot water over the spent grinds at the bottom of my French press. Only less satisfying.
“Excuse me, but there’s something wrong with this coffee,” I said. “It’s very weak.”
“Oh, we use a very light roast,” she says, and this is crap. I can see behind her that the coffee pots have Arbuckle stickers on them. Arbuckle is the same local roaster that supplies Beyond Bread across the street, and I really like Beyond Bread’s drip coffee. I was familiar enough with Arbuckle to know that their beans were better than this. It wasn’t the roast.
“No, really,” I say. “It’s like the grounds got double brewed. Maybe old grounds got left in the filter.”
She apologized, saying sometimes mix ups happen ‘during the rush’ and she started a fresh pot.
When my replacement coffee came up, I noticed it was a little darker, a little more coffee like, but still crap. I’d rather drink Folgers. I found myself wishing that the establishment was still a Dunkin’ Donuts.
“Sorry about the mix up,” the girl said. “I wouldn’t want people thinking we had bad coffee.” And what I’m thinking is you don’t even drink coffee, do you?
I give Caffe Diva one and a half soggy packets of Splenda on the floor by the condiment bar.
What people on the internet are saying:
“The worst customer service in the world!” –A diner from Tucson, AZ
“Up unitl(sp) now I have been a faithful customer of Cafe Diva. This despite frequently slow service and luke warm coffee.” – Michael N.
“talking to those cute girls with raggedy black hair and pierced everything makes me feel young again!” – Momma of 2