Zélé: Absurdly complicated coffee drink? No problem | AspenTimes.com

Zélé: Absurdly complicated coffee drink? No problem

Naomi Havlen
If our reporters experience is any guide, then Janina Leitner, Chris Kelner and their brethren at Zl can handle even the most mind-boggling coffee order with skill and a smile. Aspen Times photo/Paul Conrad.

On a recent Thursday I entered Zélé Cafe at what could be one of their busiest times of the day – from 8:30 to 9 a.m. – and left generally pleased with their level of service.

There wasn’t much of a line, but the shop was packed with coffee drinkers and pastry eaters. I noticed that the blonde at the cash register was patiently waiting as a customer went through all of her pockets to pull out exact change for a cup of coffee, and to find a frequent-customer card for the cashier to stamp.My mission was to order a complicated coffee drink at a busy time, and to gauge the staff’s reaction. The good news: This woman didn’t even bat an eyelash when I ordered a tall, half-caffeinated, half-decaf mocha latte with 1 percent milk, a shot of orange syrup and no whipped cream but extra foam. In fact, she nodded smoothly at my entire order, stopping me just to note that they offer only 2 percent milk, and would that be OK with me?

I could have complained, but before my morning caffeine infusion I truly don’t care, so I just went along.If there’s a hitch at Zélé, it’s this: You give them your name, which they shout when your order is ready, but the woman fixing the drinks doesn’t have much of a shouting voice. So you wind up standing near the counter with other customers (I was with three others) doing a strange little step-forward, step-back dance to determine whose drink is whose.

A small line formed shortly after I arrived and so the drink maker got busy, but around five minutes later I was headed out the door with my froo-froo drink in hand. A little too late I realized my “extra foam” request hadn’t been honored, but I wasn’t about to walk a block back to ask for more steamed milk.However, from what I observed, the Zélé women wouldn’t have been offended by any extra requests. To me, that’s the sign of baristas who are ready for an onslaught of java junkies in need of a fix at all hours of the day.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com

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