Flavia: about misuse of coffee and the English language

I keep meaning to write this post about the vile branding job that the Mars Company did with Flavia, their single serving coffee offering, and deciding that the names of the product suite really kind of tell the whole terrible story. First of all, there’s “Flavia, the Café of Choice,” which is the oddest tagline ever. I know it’s supposed to make me think that I have options, but I think it just makes it sound like a third tier Roman household god. Is a Café the household god that watches over coffee related items? Flavia, Café of Choice! Lavia, Café of Coffee-Related Metabolic Disorders! Starbuck, Café of Ubiquity! Tremora, Café of Caffeine Withdrawal!

Then there are the product packets, of which the worst offenders are:

  • Creamy Topping: OK, not supposed to be a flavor by itself. But just picking up something that says “Creamy Topping” feels wrong. I don’t care how many “recipes” you can make with it.
  • Milky Way Swirl: it’s caramel and … something, OK? I don’t need to envision a candy bar in my coffee. I’ve made that perfectly clear before.
  • Exotic Chai: After you make the flavor packet, you can go and watch Exotic Chai do a little dance for you! (Oh, wait, not that kind of exotic.)
  • Green Tea with Jasmine: nothing wrong with this one. Oh, except that brewed into your average paper cup, it tastes like drinking the water that I soak cedar chips in for the grill. Woody, astringent, nasty. Much like Flavia’s Ethiopia Sidamo… or most of the product, actually.
  • Choco (grand prize winner): Based on the name of this drink, I always assumed that Flavia was from a Middle European country where people didn’t speak English as their first language. Choco sounds weird because the word it comes from doesn’t actually get pronounced that way. It’s pronounced chock-lit, not choc-o-late. Choco sounds like a character in The Sopranos, not like a drink. Finding out that Flavia is a British company makes me even more ashamed to be in marketing. Someone who is conversant in the language of Shakespeare shouldn’t come up with a name like this.

Saying Choco makes my flesh crawl. And that’s even before you taste it. It’s reminiscent of the Peanuts cartoon in which Lucy tells Linus that the hot chocolate he has made her is terrible; “it’s too weak! It tastes like someone dipped a brown crayon into hot water!”

Linus replies, “You’re right… I’ll go and add another crayon!”

So here we are with our little single serving machine, adding another crayon to hot water and washing it down with … shudder… creamy topping. Er, ™.

The inexplicable thing is that people get attached to these machines. Take this guy. Please. At least he provides a useful service for those that are incapable of reading directions that tell you how to use the coffeemaker… the directions that appear right on the screen as you make the coffee. And people really do make their own beverages, like the unspeakable Creamy Topping®/Choco/Espresso combination that this guy dubs “Flavia Mother of All Beverages.” I think the mother of all beverages is actually some kind of vodka.

No mention of Flavia would be complete without a reference to the Urban Dictionary article, which is pretty much complete actually.

Eating in Charlotte: a non-representative sample

I had the opportunity to try exactly one non-convention-center meal while I was in Charlotte this week. A few of us went to Ratcliffe on the Green, which is a very cool restaurant in a former Beaux Arts florist building (the Ratcliffe Florist neon sign is still out front).

The wine list was OK—I’ve been trained to look for certain Italian wines and am always a little miffed when Tuscany is the only part of the boot that makes an appearance—but the food was great. There were raves about the duck, the filet, and the rabbit (I had the latter and it had quite a lot to recommend it).

But for my money the best and most imaginative options were the starters. Foie gras brulée? Fabulous. The spare ribs were tasty too. But the absolute treat was the Eight-Piece Quail Bucket, which took the classic southern fried chicken and biscuits trope and miniaturized it. Little tiny pieces of quail piping hot and breaded with a crackling spicy not too greasy coating, with two biscuits the size of a silver dollar alongside. Um, fabulous. What a fun little restaurant; if more of Charlotte is like that, I’ll have to check it out again.