23 Hideous Latte Flavors & The Legend of the Grape Mocha
About thirty years ago, when I was fresh out of high school, I got a job working at the very first espresso stand in the Wenatchee Valley.
The setting which saw me become one of the area's first-ever baristas was a simple, mobile-style cart inside the mall in East Wenatchee.
I spent about three years there and over that time learned the finer points of caffeinated mixology, including how to properly blend a great latte and steam the foamy head of milk required for a perfect cappuccino.
The place featured a wide variety of flavored syrups for coffee drinks and Italian sodas, and as time went on, I served one of just about everything imaginable to thirsty patrons eager to sip their old tried-and-true or try something new...everything but one thing that is.
After sloppin' coffee for a couple of years there and thoroughly enjoying it, my young heart grew restless for something else to do along my fledgling career path and I began contemplating a change of jobs. And so, I created an out for myself; a moment that, when it came, would surely indicate that I had achieved and experienced everything I could within my time as a barista.
Little did I know, that out would become a little piece of folklore among a few of my fellow employees at the mall, and also the subject of an article I would be writing as a part of my broadcast media career nearly three decades later.
The out was a beverage that I had not only never been asked to make or serve to any customer, but that no person of sound mind or properly-functioning taste buds would ever order.
Now as I said, I'd mixed up everything from strawberry lattes to peach Americanos and an invariable number of similar concoctions in between during my three years mixing joes, but there was one beverage whose very notion was so outlandish and disgusting, it seemed it would never be desired by anyone with $3.50 burning a hole in their pocket - a grape mocha.
Seriously!? Can you imagine how retched such a combo would be? Yes, it's true, chocolate and raisins play just fine together at the movie theater when they're candy, but the cloying taste of artificially-purple-colored grape syrup mixed with both chocolate and espresso would have to be enough to make just about anyone start heaving violently.
So with this rather axiomatic fact in mind, I figured that once I had someone at the coffee cart who placed an order for a grape mocha, it'd be time to give my notice.
Now this little game of cat-and-quit I was playing with myself became somewhat legendary in certain circles at the mall because I made the mistake of sharing it with a number of the friends who also worked there.
And what did they do?
Well, they all started sending their friends, siblings, parents, and grandparents my way to place a gag order for a grape mocha (pun fully intended by the way ;-).
Honestly. I must have gotten anywhere between eight or ten fugazi requests for a grape mocha from somebody who'd been utilized as a lampooning operative by my brethren of working brothers and sisters at the mall...and it got pretty frustrating to say the least!
Then one quiet weekday afternoon, at least a month or two after most of the bogus grape mocha orders had largely ceased, a woman approached the cart when I was on duty.
She was in her 50's and of Asian descent and not someone I'd ever seen before; short, with dark hair and oversized glasses with dark rims like the ones Thelma wore in Scooby-Doo cartoons.
As she approached, I smiled and asked what I could start making for her.
She paused for a moment, placing her index finger to her lips in an outward sign of her deliberation of what to order.
"Well, I'm not sure, let me see what you have," she said in a placid and kindly tone.
"Sure!" I rallied. "Take your time. We have a lot to choose from, so I know it can be a tough call."
"Okay," she began with the slightest of stammers. "I would like to try a grape mocha."
Instantly, my eyes sharpened in suspicion and my smile went from fully genial to disbelieving smirk.
"Oh, really?," I responded with in a wash of facetiousness.
"Yes," she returned matter-of-factly. "I'd like a grape mocha."
The r in her 'grape' offered a slight roll, which only served in furthering my doubts about the authenticity of not only her beverage demands, but also her motivations behind them.
"Who sent you?" I quickly chipped, having fully erased any traces of customer service in exchange for black ops interrogator.
"What?," she volleyed quizzically as she pushed her glasses higher up on the bridge of her nose.
"C'mon," I hurried. "Who sent you? Was it Chaz? I'll bet it was Chaz wasn't it? He's still not letting this thing go, is he?"
The woman's demeanor went from innately unassuming to one that was bordering on fearful, and I felt my own disposition start to quiver at the realization of this unexpected shift.
"I'm sorry," she said in an even softer timbre than she'd already had on display. "Should I order something else?"
Then suddenly, it began to hit me. My snarky buddy Chaz from the shoe store at the other end of the mall hadn't sent this woman my way, nor had anyone else who'd been sharking the waters surrounding my espresso cart with fake appeals for a grape mocha. This woman was the real deal. She was my ticket out; my genuine angel of the grape mocha with direct ties to the gods of vocation who were waiting to set me free.
"Oh, certainly not," I quickly posed. "My apologies. It's a long story but I thought you were someone else that my friends were having fun with. I'll get that started for you right away."
I made a bit of small talk with the grape mocha lady as I made her the one drink I never had...and never thought I would - still wondering how in the world anyone could possibly stomach such a dreadful brew.
After finishing up her beverage, I tendered the sale and bid her a fond thank you and goodbye.
I watched in harbored curiosity as she walked away and took a few sips from the cup, half expecting her to spew its contents out in an uncontrollable jerk like a spitting cobra taking aim at person with bad taste, but she didn't. The grape mocha lady seemed quite content with her selection actually, and I was thoroughly satisfied to have finally reached the pinnacle of baristahood in only two short years.
As it turned out, making the grape mocha didn't provide the onus I'd assumed it would for quitting my job at the coffee cart, and I was there for about another year after that. But it did provide for a memorable occasion and another little part of my history as a human to share with you.
To close up shop, I'd also like to offer you a list of 23 flavors that would make a terrible coffee drink.
When I worked at that coffee stand years ago, most of the flavored syrups we had were Torani brand, and so then are all of the ones on my list. And boy do they make a lot more varieties than they used to!
Enjoy!...or, maybe not actually ;-)
APPLE / GREEN APPLE - Yeah, apples and coffee just don't go together, do they?
BLUE CURACAO - Jeez, really?
BLUEBERRY - A blueberry coffee sounds about as good as the blueberry daquiri that Weird Al Yankovic ordered at the bar in the movie UHF...as in not good at all!
CANTALOUPE - Melons and coffee also don't seem to mix well.
CRANBERRY - Uggghhhh! Yuck! Can you imagine how bad this would taste in a latte or mocha?
GRAPE - Hey, you know the story :-)
GUAVA - Sick! Sick! Sick!
GRENADINE - Without it, the Shirley Temple and the Roy Rogers wouldn't exist...but let's not go overboard.
KIWI - Sheer and utter grossness. A kiwi coffee drink?
LIME - Blah! NO! Real lemon juice in an espresso is a classic Italian twist on coffee just as Eddie Murphy discovered in Beverly Hills Cop, but it's a coffee man, not a Corona!
LYCHEE - Give me a break.
MANGO - Give me the same break over again.
PASSION FRUIT - Ew! Nasty! There's nothing passionate about this combo.
PEACH - I've actually tried this before. It's not good.
PINEAPPLE - Add the 'pine' to 'apple' and you still come out with more of a wet dog when it's in your coffee.
POMEGRANATE - This tart fruit is the main ingredient in grenadine, so see that flavor for my answer.
PRICKLY PEAR - Sounds like something Fred Flintstone would order at the bar, and certainly not something you stash in your joe.
ROOT BEER - Oh, yum! Root beer coffee. Great.
RUBY RED GRAPEFRUIT - Intolerable to many on its own, but when mixed with coffee, this becomes something that's probably already being served to Turkish prisoners.
SOUR CANDY - What the hell? NO!
STRAWBERRY - Another one I've actually given a whirl. Also not good.
TANGERINE - It might be one cool Led Zeppelin song, but it ain't nothin' you'd wanna be puttin' in your coffee cup.
WATERMELON - Gen Z probably loves this, but for the rest of us, it's a trip to Nastyville.