How to Order at Starbucks
I like Starbucks.
I don’t love it the way some people do, but I can see why they make daily trips or spend their afternoons there. The big smiles and attention to detail make you feel special, like you’re the only one who orders a drink that way. It’s like being part of an exclusive club that has its own language and club houses all over the world.
Actually, I’m sitting in a Starbucks while I write this. This is the first time I have written from Starbucks, or any cafe for that matter. I thought it was important for accuracy and inspiration — wait, my London Fog is ready.
OK, I’m back.
Jamie, the barista, says “hi” (barista is Italian for “bartender”).
A London Fog is basically a latte, with an earl grey tea bag and a shot of vanilla syrup. Not every Starbucks makes this drink well, but they’re really good about taking drinks back if you don’t like them, so don’t be afraid to try something new or let them know they made a mistake.
If you’re looking for “London Fog” on the menu, it has been renamed to reduce confusion. You’ll find it labeled as “Earl Grey” under “Tea Lattes.”
A moment ago, I overheard a customer at the counter. I couldn’t help but listen to the conversation — It’s very quiet in here; since the guy with dreadlocks and the distinguished lady both left about ten minutes ago, I’m the only other person in the store. The customer said he’s here because his sick daughter told him: the only thing that will make her feel better is lemon loaf from Starbucks.
While the barista bagged the lemon loaf, the customer looked around casually and said, “So this is Starbucks.”
The barista smiled and said, “yes.”
“This is my first time in here” and as if he needed to defend himself he continued, “I’m not a coffee drinker.”
He paused and then said, “Do you have hot chocolate, or anything like that?”
In less than a minute the barista educated him on the variety of ways they could make his hot chocolate: with vanilla, steamed milk, espresso, whipped cream or all of the above.
He says, “I just want a hot chocolate, and I’m not into real hot stuff.” The barista told him that it can be made to any temperature, which resulted in a confused look on the customers face. The barista continued, “We make kids drinks at 140 degrees.”
The man thought about it for a few seconds. He said, “make it one thirty” and I was impressed. Two minutes ago, this man had never been in Starbucks, now he’s ordering drinks by temperature.
Starbucks is an intimidating place, until you’re comfortable with the language and the local customs.
There is no manual for ordering at Starbucks. When you’re new, you listen to other people order ahead of you. Sometimes, it sounds the way a secret handshake looks — you don’t know what it means and you can’t repeat it. Why did they say they want their drink wet, isn’t that the idea?
It’s not supposed to be a secret, it’s supposed to be a way to communicate exactly how you want your order. On the other hand, some people like show off their expertise with the language.
So, what does it all mean? Here is a breakdown of some terms a Starbucks beginner probably won’t know:
- Non-fat/skim – skim milk (if your drink contains milk)
- Low-fat/percentage – 1% or 2% milk
- Breve – Made with half and half instead of milk. Makes it thicker, and contains many more calories than the above choices
- Skinny – Non-fat milk, sugar free syrup
- No Foam – Lattes and Macchiatos have foamed milk on top, you can ask for no foam or wet/dry
- Wet – Less Foam (and more liquid)
- Dry – More Foam (and less liquid)
You’ll also need to know the sizes. Unlike McDonald’s cups, they don’t have small, medium and large. Starbucks sizes, from smallest to largest, are the following:
- Short – 8 oz. Basically kids size
- Tall – 12 oz. You’ll get this size if you ask for small
- Grande – 16 oz. This is medium, but it’s confusing because it means “large” in Italian
- Venti – Translated from Italian, it means “Twenty,” which is how many ounces this size is
In the future, I’ll go over the contents of all the most popular drinks. In the meantime, try a Hot Chocolate with a shot of vanilla syrup — it’s a secret recipe for great hot chocolate.
Written By: Chad Upton
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