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Understanding the Starbucks Menu. How to order a drink at Starbucks. A newbies guide to Starbucks

Updated on July 9, 2012

Understanding Starbucks

Recently a friend asked me for help with the menu at Starbucks because he didn't understand the names for the drink sizes. His question took me back to my own first visit to Starbucks when I too was confused about the drink sizes as well as the different types of drinks the coffee shop offered. I was too embarrassed to ask anyone for help so I left the shop without ordering anything.

I've been to Starbucks many times since that first disappointing visit and can honestly say I feel quite confident ordering a drink now, and it doesn't hurt that my daughter is a barista at our local shop! If you've never been to Starbucks or if you've been there but want to know more about the different drinks the store offers this is the hub for you! Read on to learn everything from where the store got it's name to how to order your own customized drink.

A Very Short History

Starbucks Coffee, Tea, and Spice was created in 1971 by three friends who had a mutual love for coffees and teas. The first store was located in Pikes Place Market in Seattle, Washington and was named after the first mate in Herman Melville's Moby Dick. The Starbuck's logo, a mermaid with two tails surrounded by the company name, carries on the company's nautical theme.

In the beginning Starbucks did not serve drinks, they simply roasted and sold exotic coffees and teas to consumers. The store began selling coffee drinks in 1984 and has grown leaps and bounds due to their espresso bars. Currently there are over 14,000 Starbucks stores worldwide.

Drink Sizes

Starbucks sells both hot and cold drinks. You can order them in sizes that range from 8 oz. all the way up to 32 oz.. The drink sizes are Italian because the idea for the coffee bar was inspired by the espresso bars found in Italy. The sizes are:

Short - 8oz. of fluid
Tall - 12 oz. of fluid
Grande - 16 oz. of fluid
Venti - 20 oz. of hot fluid or 24 oz of cold fluid
Trenta-32 oz. of cold fluid only (teas, iced coffee, water)

If you happen to order a "small" drink at Starbucks you will get a short. If you order a medium you will get a grande. If you order a large you will get a venti.


Ever wonder what the difference between a cappuccino and a latte were? Look no further-here's a complete explanation of each term.

  • Espresso: a highly concentrated coffee bean
  • Latte: steamed milk with espresso
  • Cappuccino: steamed milk with espresso where there is more foam than milk. The foam is very stiff-almost meringue like.
  • Dry Cappuccino: more foam than milk
  • Wet Cappuccino: the drink has more milk than foam
  • Cafe Americano: espresso and water
  • Mocha: latte with chocolate syrup
  • Macchiato: an upside down latte-layered syrup, steamed milk, espresso. This drink isn't meant to be stirred-it starts off strong but gets sweeter and lighter as you go
  • Misto: half espresso half steamed milk
  • Frappuccino: blended ice, milk, coffee and flavor drink
  • Creme Frappuccino: a frappuccino minus the coffee
  • Smoothies: made with a whole bananna, whey protein, fiber powder, ice, milk and juice or syrup. You can get a chocolate smoothie, orange mango smoothie, or a strawberry smoothie.
  • Affogato style: for this type of drink you put shots of espresso on top of the other drink ingredients-a macchiato is a drink made in affogato style
  • Syrup: different flavorings you add to drinks. Starbucks offers: mocha, white mocha, chia, vanilla, hazelnut, toffee nut, cinnamon, coconut, classic (sugar syrup), raspberry, peppermint, and caramel. The store also offers sugar free vanilla, caramel, hazelnut, cinnamon dulce, toffee nut and peppermint and syrups. You can add a flavored syrup to any drink.
  • Inclusions: matcha green tea powder-a ceremonial Japanese green tea, protein powder, and vanilla bean powder

You can order all drinks with the exception of the frappuccinos iced or hot.

Customizing Your Drink

Follow these steps when ordering a drink at Starbucks:

  1. Choose your cup size
  2. Choose your drink
  3. Choose the type of milk you want. Choices are whole milk, 2% milk, nonfat milk and soy milk
  4. Choose your syrups. You can specify how many pumps of syrup you want in your beverage.

It's that simple.

Have Fun

I hope this hub helped you learn how to order a drink a Starbucks. Starbucks also offers iced teas, lemonades, and juices but I didn't include information on them this time. If you have any questions email me and I'll ask my daugher!!


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    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 5 years ago from south Florida

      Venti thanks miki, now I am no longer Starbucks-challenged.

    • mikicagle profile image

      mikicagle 5 years ago from Oklahoma

      Have you tried the petite vanilla bean scones? Yummy!

    • PickingProfits profile image

      PickingProfits 5 years ago

      I make my girlfriend order for me whenever I go. The idea of calling something a "grande" instead of a "large" is nothing short of annoying in my opinion and you know that you are supposed to say "grande" not "large". That being said, I think grande should mean large, not medium. Delicious chocolate chunk cookies though...and everyone knows what one of those is and what to call it!