How to Speak Starbucks
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We spoke with several current and former Starbucks baristas to get the skinny on how to place a Starbucks order the exact right way. We’re not going to lie to you: your barista is never exactly thrilled about concoting your complicated, time-consuming, secret-menu order (especially when there's a line out the door), but of course they’re too professional to ever let their feelings show. But if you’re going to be the guy who orders an extra-complex drink, you should at least know how to ask for it right — and you should always remember to tip.
A lot of the terms we’re using here are very Starbucks-specific. For instance, the coffee sizes aren't really used elsewhere, so don’t go into your favorite local coffee shop and order a “Trenta” lest you garner some serious side-eye from the cutie behind the counter. But before we get to the ordering process, what do some of those secret coffee terms that you always hear floating around the coffee shop even mean?
Skinny can mean two different things. If you order your latte “skinny,” the barista will certainly know you want skim milk. They may also take that the term "skinny" to mean that you want sugar-free syrup instead of regular.
If you’re getting a two-shot drink and you order it half-caf, one of these will be espresso and the other will be decaf espresso.
Extra whip indicates that you’re more interested in full flavor than bikini season readiness: this order will get you an extra squirt or two of whipped cream. But if you’re doing whipped cream anyway, why not go whole hog?
One Starbucks-specific term that you should definitely not order anywhere else is the Frappuccino, a blended iced coffee drink. If you’re at a local coffee shop, consider ordering a "frappé," however.
Asking for an extra shot? This means you want to add another shot of espresso to your coffee concoction.
One common modification former Starbucks barista Alison Abides said we should absolutely note in our list: some customers ask for a no water chai. Normally, Starbucks will include a certain number of pumps of chai mix (three pumps for a tall, four for a grande, five for a hot venti, six for a cold venti) and then — only for a hot chai — they will add hot water up to the halfway point in order to dilute the strong chai concentrate. If you’re someone who likes their chai extra flavorful, consider placing your order with the added note of “no water.” (This step can get squeezed in at number three in the Starbucks order).
Read on to find out how to place your order the perfect way and look like a Starbucks pro — our guide gives you all the terms you might need, and what order to list them in. Soon you’ll be rattling off orders like a “Grande half caf triple skinny extra hot caramel latte” like you were born in their iconic green mermaid's arms. And think of it this way: if you’re having a bad week, learning how to get your order down pat — and in perfectly correct lingo — can be a tiny accomplishment you can cross of your list. Banish your blues and feel secure in the knowledge that you learned something moderately useful today!
1. Hot or Iced
A Frappuccino is automatically cold (...because it's a blended ice drink), but otherwise the default setting is hot. So if you like your latte iced, ask for that first.
You might not even know all of the sizes at Starbucks! For instance, are you aware of the short? You can order any drink “Short,” which is just eight ounces, even though it doesn’t even appear on the menu. You won’t save much in the way of money, but if you’re looking for that tiny perfect cappuccino, this is the ticket for you. Otherwise, your options include the 12-ounce “Tall,” (the standard small size), the 16-ounce “Grande,” the large “Venti,” (which is 20 ounces for a hot beverage and 24 ounces for a cold one), and then there’s the Trenta, which is 31 stupendous ounces of sugar-caffeine-blend (only available for cold drinks).
Jess Novak is the Drink Editor of The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @jesstothenovak.
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