It crept up on me slowly. First, it was a barely noticed, faintly jarring, addition to an otherwise familiar menu of long blacks and flat whites; then, it was a glimpse of a toddler clutching a tiny paper cup that had to have a different use than collecting urine samples, the only thing I could associate such a size with; and finally, it was this morning, hearing a stylishly dressed mum use the promise of one to lure her two year old away from the swings.
A few hours later, I was Googling it, with the sense of excitement and dread that you get when you’re about to learn something you can’t unlearn.
Babyccino. Or babycino. A small drink of decaf coffee and frothy milk. Or just frothy milk. Perhaps sprinkled with cinnamon. Or chocolate. Something to buy your kid to shut them up so that you can sip your coffee in peace. Yuppy mum blogs write despairingly of the ‘perils of the babycino’, while others reveal the ‘trick’ of making one in your own home. There’s a dad food blogger in Sydney who, for god’s sake, is on a mission to find the ‘best babyccino in the world’.
It appears this thing has been around in Australia as well as the UK for a few years, which is a long time for inner-city cafe obssessives with too much cash than sense, a category in which I reside. After all, I used to be a proud patron of coffee shops in London that were so achingly cool they had no perceivable name printed anywhere on the shop front, or had a local radio station at the back and were run by tattooed guys who were too good-looking to look directly in the eyes.
The problem, you see – as I can already hear myself saying pleadingly as I buy a babyccino in front of a horrified friend or relative – my son is obsessed with holding the cup whenever he sees me with a takeaway coffee in my hand. He pretends to sip it with a level of elegance that he has yet to apply to anything else he does. It’s fine when I’m having a long black, which I usually get, knowing that the daily flat whites during my time in London contributed significantly to both burgeoning in weight and dwindling in bank balance. With long blacks, you see, they double up the cups because they’re really hot to hold, so I can just tease the outer one off and give it to baby. But what if I want to indulge in something less scalding? It’s already annoying that I have to take the plastic lid off the top and lick it clean so that baby can use it in his make believe. Must I also down my flat white, my precious treat, my cup of dreams, in ten panic-filled seconds?
And the correct response to this would be: Yes. That’s exactly what you do. Now shhh.