I remember life before I was “in the know” at Starbucks. I would order a cappuccino or a latte, tall or grande, and that was that. I didn’t listen to the people who rattled off twenty syllable orders, and sometimes even wound up with the wrong sized beverage because, really, “tall” has never been an adjective associated with “small” in my vocabulary.

Then, I got to college in New York City, and even though New York is supposed to be the home of independent bookstores and coffee shops (like the one on the TV show, Friends), I discovered, much to the dismay of my coffee-lover-bookworm personality, that there was a Starbucks on every corner (not literally…but almost literally!). There were no cafes in the immediate area, and back then, I could barely do my own laundry, let alone make coffee. Also, the economy was “booming” and I could afford to spend $4 on a latte a few times each week (or at least I could justify it without going broke).

After a while, though, the lattes and cappuccinos got boring, and I wanted to be like the others and get something with a vanilla flavor or “extra foam” (more “froth” less milk). There are tons of options: tons of syrups, different kinds of milk, decaf, half-caf, chai, etc. Alas, I didn’t know what my options were, let alone how to order them, and if you hesitate at the counter at Starbucks at 8:30 AM on a weekday, you risk the “huffs” and eye rollings of impatient patrons…so I did some investigative work to learn how to properly order a Starbucks beverage…in the proper order (step by step):

  1. If you want your drink iced, say this first (you do not need to specify if you want it hot).
  2. If you want extra shots of espresso, say so after “iced”.
    1. Generally, a tall espresso drink comes with one shot of espresso, while grande and venti drinks come with two. The exception is an Americano, which comes with an extra shot of espresso. The following are the proper words to use when asking for extra shots:
    2. One shot – single
      Two shots – double
      Three shots – triple
      Four shots – quad.
    3. Ordering a “single tall” or a “double grande/venti” is redundant (for the reason mentioned above), so there is no need to specify under such circumstances (in which case this step can also be left blank).
  3. Specify the size:
    1. Tall = “small”
      Grande = “medium”
      Venti = “Large”
      *There is also a “short” (8 oz) size for hot beverages at Starbucks, though it is rarely utilized.
  4. Specify the caffeine content
    1. Half caf or decaf…if you want it caffeinated, don’t say anything.
  5. Only for hot beverages. Here you can say “extra hot” if you want your beverage extra hot, or “extra/light foam” to specify how much frothed milk they put in your drink. If you want a normal drink, don’t say anything.
  6. Specify the type of milk you would like: regular milk (i.e., 2%) does not require specification. The other types of milk are: skim (you can also say “skinny” for this), whole milk, soy, half and half, etc.
  7. Specify the flavor. You can go to Starbucks.com for a full list of available syrups. The most commonly ordered ones are vanilla, hazelnut, and cinnamon. Most of the flavors also have sugar free versions.
  8. (Finally) say the name of your beverage (e.g., cappuccino, latte, etc.)

**Don’t worry too much about getting the order wrong (after a while, it will come naturally). The baristas will know what you mean even if you go in and ask for a “large coffee”. Generally, the words sound advanced and snooty, but the Starbucks employees aren’t.