Learn How To Order a Drink at Starbucks!

As an avid Starbucks drinker and former employee of the company, I have decided to give an “ordering a Starbucks drink” tutorial. Many of my friends ask me why there’s so much lingo involved in ordering a drink and don’t know to order it themselves based on what they want. They laugh at me when I use the language when ordering a drink, but really, after working there, it became second nature. I don’t know how to not order a drink using the correct lingo!

A startling statistic they told us when I worked there was that 90% of the people that go into a Starbucks simply order a “coffee” because they are afraid of trying to order something else because they don’t know how to say it. That is sad to me, because this means that 90% of the people going into a Starbucks are not ordering what they truly want, just because they are afraid of saying it wrong!

Now, allow me to explain the correct way to order a drink. This was a difficult process for me to learn when working there because evidently there is a certain order things are said–and that is the vertical order of the boxes you see on the side of the cup. The side of a Starbucks cup looks a little something like this:

Please ignore the EGTL at the bottom. Pretend it’s blank — I borrowed this photo from brokensecrets.com.

There are two things that must be clarified on a drink order that are NOT options on the cup:

  • If it’s iced, always say “iced” first. This lets the barista know which cup to grab to start writing the drink order on.
  • Size of the drink. Tall is “small” (12oz), grande is “medium” (16oz), and venti is “large” (20oz for a hot, 24oz for iced), and the newly added trenta is 31oz, or “extra large.”
  • DECAF: this is the first box. If someone wants decaf, you would say “decaf.” If someone wants half decaf, half regular, you would say, “half caf.” The espresso machines have a special button to pull a shot that is half and half, so don’t be afraid to order that if you’d like it! It’s really not more trouble like a lot of people presume.
  • SHOTS: Number of shots, if it’s different from the normal amount. A tall drink has one shot and a grande and venti contain two. If you wanted two shots in a tall, for instance, you would say, “double tall.” If you wanted an extra shot in a grande, you would say, “triple grande.” Four shots? “Quad grande” or “quad venti.” I’ve never really heard an order for a drink with more than four shots, but I feel like anything further than that, the baristas just say “five shots” or “six shots.” Usually if someone wants that much coffee they order an espresso or iced espresso.

RANDOM FACT: The most caffeinated drink you can order at Starbucks is a black coffee. This has more caffeine than a quad venti latte, for instance, or a triple grande cappuccino. Many people think the more shots they get in a drink, the more caffeine. While that is true if you want a drink with steamed milk or foamed milk, if you flat out want a lot of caffeine, order a black coffee.

  • SYRUP: If there’s any special flavoring–vanilla, peppermint, cinnamon dolce, hazelnut, etc. Starbucks also offers sugar free options for vanilla, hazelnut, and caramel.
  • MILK: The kind of milk–2% is the default for all drinks, but if you want whole, say “whole.” If you want skim, say “nonfat.” Soy is also available, simply by saying “soy.”
  • CUSTOM would be, for instance, if someone wanted two pumps of chocolate instead of three for a tall, which is the default. (Really you’d have to know just how many pumps of chocolate are in each size, which few people know so this is rarely said) “2 pump mocha” would be the lingo for that. Or, if someone doesn’t want whipped cream, you would say, “no whip” in this category.
  • DRINK: Finally, the easy part. What drink do you want? Latte is espresso and steamed milk topped with a little foam. Cappuccino is espresso with foamed milk sitting on top. Most people know the difference here, but this the very last thing you say after all the customizations.

So, to practice using all of the fields, I’ll pretend to be the “difficult” customer with a lot of “wants” for my drink. Someone says they want a small mocha, but it’s outside so they want it over ice. They want it decaf and an extra shot in it. They don’t want whipped cream and they want skim milk. They don’t want a lot of chocolate either. And they want a little vanilla added to it. Oh geez, how on earth would you order that?

Picture the side of the drink cup and say each thing in the order of the cup.

Iced double tall decaf nonfat vanilla one pump mocha no whip mocha.

Those kinds of drinks are rare, where someone fills in every box, but it does happen sometimes. And reading that off when passing off the drink is insane! Usually brings a lot of laughs and thoughts like, “wow, what a high maintenance person.” While it sounds like they’re high maintenance, they are really just specifying the drink to their liking, which is why all Starbucks’ drinks are handcrafted and custom made for each customer! I would say that out of the apparent 10% of people who do order a drink other than a simple coffee because they know how to order it, they order it with some kind of a specification.

So, there you have it. Starbucks lingo–explained! Starbucks language–decoded! Any other questions? Feel free to ask away!

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3 thoughts on “Learn How To Order a Drink at Starbucks!

  1. So true! My mom (an avid coffee drinker) taught me this before I was in kindergarten, ad I never realized how much it helped until I began working at a local coffee shop.

Please, challenge me!

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