Up first…

Look at all that foam... disgusting.
Look at all that foam… disgusting.

Emperor Nero of Ancient Rome led a rather interesting life. He controlled the Roman Empire at 17, married his stepsister and a former slave whom he had castrated (among others), built extravagant monuments that nearly bankrupted the empire, and at the very end asked for help to commit suicide. As one might assume, he isn’t held in high esteem by historians; most would describe him as a greedy tyrant who killed his own mother in order to maintain the throne. There’s even a rumor that he was dancing and singing as Rome burned in the Great Fire. To many, Nero is the exact opposite of someone to look up to, admire, or revere.

And yet the international coffee shop chain Caffé Nero carries on his legacy. I really don’t understand why they’d choose him of all the Roman emperors out there. Sure, the name is snappy and sexy, but the man behind the moniker should discourage you from going with that option, right? Maybe I’m showing my business ignorance…

These are the thoughts I had while staring at the menu at my nearest Caffé Nero. After I placed my order, I scanned the room, wondering which of my fellow patrons knew anything at all about the erratic emperor.

I appreciated that the barista didn’t attempt any latte art, as that would have put this place completely over the top. In addition to the odd namesake, the ultra-plush, supposedly-worn-in leather armchairs and pseudo-mid-century European fixtures and artwork were giving me the heebie-jeebies. I’ll admit I have many “hipster” tendencies, but I have my limits.

The latte was alright. Currently on my scale of 1 to 10, the classic Starbucks latte is a 5, and my beloved Alaska Coffee Roasting miracle is an 11. Caffé Nero’s offering comes in at a 4.5. I know, I know, pretty harsh. But the quality of the coffee was unexpectedly poor, even for a chain, and there was way too much foam for me. If I’m being honest, the .5 is simply a reward for trying at ambience.

Though I left slightly disappointed, I took comfort in fact that at least I did not suffer as much disappointment as Emperor Nero at the time of his death. After searching for a near-equal – a senator or royal guardsman – to help end his life, he ended up settling for his secretary. Talk about disappointment.

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