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Coffee House Lingo. My first visit to Starbucks!

Updated on December 6, 2012

I have heard about these people. The Mom’s groups or book club members. Or maybe groups of co- workers. When the urge hits to get together, they meet for coffee at Starbucks. There is one on practically every street corner. Through the windows, the tables always seem full. The outdoor seats usually crowded with people who just finished a running group, or college students exchanging notes, all sipping on coffee. I guess I have never been in a circle of friends who have developed this habit.

I am embarrassed to say, I have never stepped foot in a Starbucks!

Recently I had to meet a colleague of my husband’s to exchange some papers. He lives on the opposite end of town, and when trying to decide a good meeting place, he suggested Starbucks. My curiosity peaked! No one has ever used that expression in earshot of me. Of course, I obliged.

We arrived at roughly the same time. As per my expectations, the outdoor seating was packed. We walked through the door and I instantly felt relaxed. The atmosphere was great. A fireplace was on, a nice mix of leather comfortable chairs and bistro sets. Young, happy people socializing over a cup of Joe. We made our way up toward the counter. A reasonably large line had formed, but with all of the scenery to take in, I was surprisingly not put off. My eyes gazed over the array of baked goods, and items for sale. I was mentally picking out the mug I would purchase if this became my new ritual.

I was so distracted by the experience, I suddenly realized the sound I was listening to was my friend ordering his coffee. I only caught the tail end of his six to eight word description. Was he speaking Latin? The young kid behind the counter obviously spoke the same language, because he hustled away, and in mere seconds produced a large Starbucks coffee.

I was mesmerized by what was taking place before my eyes. Suddenly I realized the Barista, as it were, and my friend were staring at me! Waiting for my order. Latin words started running through my head. My eyes frantically scanned the menu boards above. I was bewildered. Some words reminded me of anatomy class. I could feel my anxiety level rising. Beads of sweat were forming across my brow. In my head, I envisioned this moment. I would just ask for a large coffee, and the Starbucks kid would say “cream or sugar?” This was not how the conversation was going to go down. I could tell. I could feel the piercing stares of the people in line behind me burning a hole in my back.

I quickly blurted out, “I’ll have what he is having”, my voice half cracking.

My friend awkwardly starred at me. I could tell my cover was blown. Must be easy to spot a rookie!

We sat and made small talk while we sipped our coffees, but I wasn’t paying attention to the conversation. I was studying the menu, listening to the customers reaming off their orders. I felt like I was learning a new language!

As far as I could tell, this is what I learned:

1- Hot or Iced. Many drinks apparently can come cold, but if you don’t say anything, the default is hot.

2- Size. Short (8oz), Tall (12oz), Grande (16oz), Venti (20oz)

3-Type of drink. This is where you have a lot of choice. Some I remembered.

Coffee- chose light, medium or dark roast, flavors change daily

Latte- espresso and steamed milk

Americano- espresso and hot water

Espresso Machiatto- espresso with foamed milk on top

Caramel Machiatto- as above with caramel syrup

Misto- otherwise known as café au lait, coffee with steamed milk

Cappuccino- 1/3 each espresso, steamed milk and foam

Frappaccino- espresso, foamed milk and chocolate syrup

Teas- many to choose from- can be turned into a latte, cappuccino etc

Many other choices- hot chocolate, white hot chocolate etc…

Seasonal drinks, like Pumpkin Spice Latte, or Candy Cane Latte

4- Wet or dry. More milk means wet, more foam means dry.

5-Number of espresso shots. Single, double, triple or quad.

6- Milk or cream. Default is 2%. Skinny is skim milk. Can specify cream or soy.

7- Extra instructions. Extra hot, No foam, Splenda or sweetener, etc., syrups, leave room for cream, some mentioned specific temperatures.

Some examples of drinks I overheard people ordering:

Tall Green Tea skinny Cappuccino

Double Tall sugar free vanilla bean latte.

Venti no Whip White Mocha

Grande skinny Pumpkin Cappuccino

Decaf Double grande skinny extra-dry cappuccino.

Venti Vanilla bean frappaccino

I don’t know if these people were ordering correctly, but they definitely spoke with confidence. Now I feel armed and ready, for the next time someone suggests we meet for coffee at Starbucks. I will memorize the name of a drink, and repeat it to myself over and over the whole drive over!!


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    • kitkat1141 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Some people complain about the cost, but you are paying for the atmosphere too. If you meet a friend for coffee at Starbucks, it is much less than going for lunch, or meeting for a drink at a bar. They have really done a great job creating an inviting atmosphere! And who doesn't love the smell of fresh coffee!

    • Lauryallan profile image


      5 years ago

      Yeah it's been a bit of a coffee revolution over in the UK with the arrival of Starbucks. I gotta say I am a huge fan of Starbucks. I love the atmosphere in there and the seats are always super comfy. It's like being on your own couch but without having to make your own drink.

    • kitkat1141 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks for the comment. My technique lately has been to order whatever specialty drink they advertise as I walk in the door! Someone I know who used to work as a barista at Starbucks said they are encouraged to gently correct the person ordering, to teach them the proper lingo!

    • Lauryallan profile image


      5 years ago

      Hey kitkat that was some quick thinking with the I'll have whatever he's having.

      I took my dad to Starbucks for the first time about 10 years ago. You handled it far better as he decided the best way to handle it was to say I'll have a coffee with milk. Needless to say the barista wanted to know what kind of coffee and it turned into an arguement. Thankfully Starbucks had literally just opened and hadn't gained in popularity yet so there wasn't a large queue.

      In the end, I ordered a tall caffee latte for him as a whole new arguement started brewing when the barista started asking about whether he wanted a tall, grande or venti coffee. However, my dad was shocked when I got my cold caramel frappachino with whipped cream on top. Before Starbucks the most choice we ever got was milk and sugar. It can be quite a change for those who've never been before or aren't prepared for the experience.

    • kitkat1141 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks for the comment. It sure is a fascinating sub-culture! Great people watching...

    • CrisSp profile image


      6 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Lol, that is so funny! Starbucks menu could be very intimidating, eh? I remember once I was at the airport and there was a huge line up, the barista asked for my name and said, "I'll call you when it's ready". Since I am not a newbie at Starbucks, I told him "Ever". So, when my cappuccino got ready, he yelled at the counter, "Cappuccino for Ever" and everybody was laughing and looking for "Ever". --true story!

      Oh well, yours is an enjoyable hub. Voted up and funny and will share.


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