“Dirty Blue Velvets” might just tear this school apart. For those who have sampled this bizarre amalgam of coffee and tea, these three words represent a surprisingly tasty way to get that much-needed caffeine fix. For baristas in the Green Bean, however, “Dirty Blue Velvet” induces a mixture of repulsion and annoyance.
“To date, the Dirty [Blue Velvet], which is earl grey tea with shots of espresso, is the most blasphemous drink I’ve ever had ordered,” Diplomacy and World Affairs major and Green Bean barista Ian Mariani (senior) said in an email.
According to psychology and spanish studies double major and Green Bean supervisor Emma Kraft (senior), Dirty Blue Velvets slow down the natural flow of drink preparation behind the counter. Between steeping the tea, steaming the milk and adding the espresso and syrup, the Dirty Blue Velvet is a dirty drink indeed.
For diehard coffee lovers, mixing tea and coffee is unconscionable. Biology major and Green Bean barista Tina Tran (senior) put it more bluntly.
“I mean, live and let live, but honestly I don’t think Dirty Blue Velvets or dirty apple ciders should have ever become a thing,” Tran said in an email. “I feel like we’re abusing espresso shots to get a caffeine fix while simultaneously ruining the integrity of the original drink.”
At this point it should be obvious that Dirty Blue Velvets are the last drink to consider ordering. For Green Bean aficionados looking to spice up their routines, though, or for wary newcomers, here’s a guide to the good, the bad and the ugly of the Green Bean.
Flavored-iced coffee drinkers, whom Kraft encounters on the daily, might consider experimenting with different syrups and the amount of pumps as an easy way to branch out. If customers prefer less-sweet drinks, Kraft usually gets an iced Americano with one pump of caramel. Some customers, meanwhile, have their orders down to a science. One regular customer who Kraft often serves orders green tea with precise levels of lemonade and raspberry.
“I don’t mind when customers are really specific because when I make a drink, I want them to like what they’re getting,” Kraft said. “Since the Green Bean has 57 employees it can be hard to get a consistent drink every time you go in. When people figure out what they like, they can make it really specific.”
Pro tips include avoiding the demand for no foam in a drink that is intentionally foamy, according to Urban and
Environmental Policy (UEP) major and Green Bean barista Grace Hancock (sophomore). Specifically, one should avoid ordering a cappuccino with almond milk, which does not foam well. In blended drinks, avoid asking for two percent milk, since the Green Bean does not carry two percent and since only the smallest splash of milk imaginable (think eyedropper size) goes into blended drinks. The worst offenders are most often customers who are not
affiliated with Occidental and who do not know what the Green Bean
offers, biochemistry major Lexie Filkins (sophomore) said. Hancock estimates that roughly one out of
every 20 customers on a given day at the Green Bean are not Occidental
students or faculty.
“Every barista will agree with me when I say that people are creatures of habit,” Tran said. “Generally, I can spot a ‘medium-roast-drip-no-room’ as soon as they enter the door. I say the most common order would be drip coffee, nonfat chai or nonfat vanilla lattes in the daytime and hot chocolate or peppermint tea in the nighttime.”
When it is hot outside, Hancock added, customers tend to order iced coffees and green tea lemonades. Drinks normally served hot can be a pain to make cold, though, so the baristas implore us to think twice before ordering iced tea lattes, iced Blue Velvets and iced mochas.
Filkins, who has worked at the Green Bean for two years, noticed a change in drinks ordered from the fall to spring semesters. At the beginning of the year, students order a lot of blended beverages, but by the second semester, baristas get more orders for nonfat lattes and sugar-free vanilla coffee.
“I don’t know if it’s the freshman 15 or what it is, but by the spring we get a lot less orders for blended drinks,” Filkins said.
For latte lovers, Filkins suggests stepping out of the box by trying a cappuccino with chocolate drizzle and cinnamon on top. Hancock added that while few people order cappuccinos, a nice frothy cappuccino will certainly hit the spot for foam enthusiasts. Alternatively, go for a tea latte and experience a whole new world.
“Everyone should try a different tea at least once in their time going to the Green Bean,” Mariani said. “People can get so caught up in their preferences that they won’t branch out and try something new. Oolong and Chinese Flower get lonely too.”
Feel free to enter a dialogue with the barista to play around with flavors. Since the Green Bean has expanded its tea selection, Filkins and Hancock also advocate for customers to diversify their palettes. All Green Bean baristas, including Kraft, gladly assist adventurous patrons in discovering the perfect taste.
“People [in the Green Bean] are pretty friendly and everyone’s happy to talk with you and find a drink that you’ll like,” Kraft said.
The dialogue usually plays out with the barista asking whether the customer wants their beverage blended, iced or hot, coffee or tea, caffeinated or decaffeinated and what, if any, syrup flavors. But if customers have no idea what to try or are stuck in an iced medium roast rut, the baristas in the Green Bean have plenty of ideas, including the drink of the month. In honor of Valentine’s Day, February’s drink is a Red Velvet, which is essentially a Blue Velvet with African Autumn tea.
Tran also recommends variations of tea lattes. She enjoys cinnamon spice tea lattes with soy milk and one pump of pumpkin sauce. Mariani goes for the pumpkin as well and recommends trying a pumpkin mocha.
“Any espresso based drink with whole milk has the potential to be a beautiful and delicious concoction,” Mariani said.
Hancock recommends trying berry lemonade made with green tea instead of water, as well as adding Irish cream to coffee beverages. Filkins goes for tea lattes, especially peaches and ginger tea lattes with honey. Other alluring options Filkins has seen made are chai with pumpkin syrup and green tea with chai and nonfat milk.
Hancock and Filkins also encourage students to order what they want and experiment with new flavors, while also remembering that baristas are students who share the same stress about school. Filkins also asks that when ordering, students speak loudly, and be careful not to take the wrong drink from the counter. Kraft said that at least several times a day baristas have to remake drinks as a result of customers taking someone else’s order.
Lastly, never leave Marketplace utensils or plates in the Green Bean. That’s just plain rude.