Many of you may recall the first time you ventured to order a latte and were astounded that the cashier wanted four bucks.

“For a cup of coffee?!” you cried.

But hopefully, as you waited, the shock wore off and you became complicit to the creation of a magical elixir that danced on your tongue and lingered, cooing sweet sounds to your taste buds.

I, of course, realize that many of you have not had that experience and I suppose what I am trying to get across (ahem), is that you really should have that experience.

Many factors on both sides of the counter conspire to rob you of your daily euphoria … some you can control, and, some you just have to have faith.

Let’s examine them:

Time.

If you are in a rush, order a drip coffee as lattes are not pre-fab drinks from a can or bottle. Each drink is made uniquely and expressly to order.

At the very least, a well-trained barista can make a basic, no-frills espresso drink in two minutes. That isn’t including the four orders before yours and if the guy in front of you orders a drink with more than three adjectives, give him the evil eye, not the barista.

Each detail that needs to be attended to adds a few more seconds. Good things do come to those who are willing to wait.

Your Barista (the person who makes your espresso drinks every day).

Most baristas undergo an intense training period before they are set free on a machine. Every person is different and sometimes when they look stressed, it’s not because they are doing it badly, it is because you are trying to talk to them while they are concentrating on making someone’s drink perfect.

How well would you do if someone was constantly glaring at you, tapping their foot or asking directions? It takes a really amazing barista to converse while making a perfect drink and this should never be taken for granted. Let them do their job.

Equipment.

The best espresso machines still come from Italy. They should know espresso, they invented the espresso machine.

Most cost a good deal more than your first car. But, if a store does not have a good machine, you are not likely to get a good latte from there.

What makes a good machine? Constant pressure and water temperature are key to getting a perfect espresso “shot” every time. And a good grinder that allows the beans to be ground fresh each time will greatly improve the drink quality.

Pre-ground coffee will quickly oxidize and lose it’s flavour and, once it’s gone, there’s no way of getting a good drink.

And last but not least…Coffee.

Your favourite café’s choice of whose coffee to use is what will most influence your drink experience. Every roaster has a different version of what espresso should taste like. There is no industry standard for espresso.

So pick the one you like and go to that place.

Freshness of coffee also plays a huge role in your drink’s flavour. You will never get the beautiful “crema” (the foam on top of an espresso shot that hold the oils with all the flavour) from coffee that is stale.

There is an amazing number of details that go into making a perfect cappuccino or latte. But now you know where your money is going when you shell out those toonies.

If one store costs more than the next, take a look at all the factors that go into your daily ritual drink and see if they add up to what you are paying for.

Zola Doré is the owner/roaster of Midnight Sun Coffee Roasters in Whitehorse. Comments and questions about coffee are welcome. Or you and your friends can join her in a coffee-tasting session. Find out more at www.yukoncoffee.com.