I met our guest writer today, Nicola, at a cafe in Oakland. She — an Australian and a recent transplant to the Bay Area — questioned why our cafes don’t offer babyccinos to children who accompany their parents. I didn’t know what she meant, and asked her to explain, via a blog post.
Nicola is new to California, having arrived after a six-year stay in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. She has started a Berkeley-based web-boutique called Munchkin et Moi, stocking fashionable European shoes for the littlest of feet and blogs in her spare time at Next to Nicx. Here’s what she wrote:
When we lived in Switzerland, thousands of miles from family, new motherhood was sometimes very lonely. So my new Munchkin and I used to go out for frequent walks and to wander around Lausanne. Once a week, we would meet with a friend or two for coffee at our favorite coffee shop in St Francois.
I’d get a latte and Munchkin would get a babyccino. It was served alongside my coffee, free of charge, as soon as she was old enough to enjoy one.
The waiters and barristers were lovely to the children; they’d provide a little demitasse cup full of warm milk topped with about 50% milk foam and a dusting of chocolate powder. Alongside it was a little financier or butter biscuit (cookie). It made the little ones feel like one of us, and my daughter thoroughly enjoyed it, sitting proudly as she drank her “fluffy milk.”
But in Switzerland this cafe was an anomaly.
I came from Sydney where babyccinos were the norm at cafes. Depending on where you went, they were either a small cup of just milk foam, or served with the same ratio of milk to foam as a traditional cappuccino; they were usually served free of charge with an adult coffee. Then, over time, the cafes started including a marshmallow or treat on the side, and charging a couple of dollars for them.
When we arrived here, it was impossible to find a babyccino. Every time I’d ask for a cup of warm milk for a child, it would be served in a giant paper cup with a lid. Something that initially made my toddler very dissatisfied.
Finally, we settled into a house and I bought a coffee machine with a milk steamer on it. We started to have afternoon babyccinos at home. I serve them with a little treat; French Goûter style. But you could easily make them by warming some milk and using a frother to whisk the milk up, they’re available quite cheaply in department stores. Then topping with a little chocolate powder if you wish.
They’re far from an essential part of life, but I thoroughly enjoy taking a pause with my daughter most afternoons and having a little chat. I’m hoping that as she grows we can continue the tradition, until one day I’ll be sitting across from a young lady, we’ll both be having coffee and a chat.