After years of watching celebrities consume Starbucks Coffee on entertainment and social media; the people of South Africa can finally enjoy Seattle’s tastiest export on their home turf [The very first Starbucks Coffee shop opened in Rosebank on 21st of April 2016].

Starbucks Coffee shops are known, worldwide, for having country specific styling and merchandise, free WiFi, yummy treats, and a myriad of delicious coffee and tea based drinks. They are also very well known for adopting unique terminology for items on their menu, resulting in what has become known as ‘Starbucks Lingo’.

Starbucks Lingo is an important part of the Starbucks Coffee culture and defines the way in which the company labels its drinks and the terms used when ordering a beverage. As such, placing an order at a Starbucks Coffee can be a daunting experience for first timers. That is where this article comes into play as it will attempt to shed light on some of these unfamiliar expressions.


VAMERS - FYI - LIFESTYLE - Ordering at Starbucks- A Guide to Starbucks Lingo - Starbucks Espresso

Many of the warm and cold drinks available at Starbucks Coffee shops are made with shots of espresso. Thus it is important to understand what espresso is and how it may affect the drink being ordered.

In layman terms, espresso is extremely strong and condensed coffee, which forms the basis of many popular coffee based drinks; such as cappuccinos and lattes. Starbucks Coffee stores use automatic espresso bars that grind coffee beans and prepare the espresso shots for use – machines are adjusted throughout the day for quality.

Although a single shot of espresso contains roughly 75mg of caffeine, it is always safe to overestimate that figure especially if one is sensitive to caffeine. Alternatively, simply order the drink with a mixture of caffeinated and decaffeinated espresso or simply as wholly decaffeinated.

Quantity Term Caffeine
One shot (30ml) Single/Solo About 75mg
Two shots (60ml) Double/Doppio About 150mg
Three shots (90ml) Triple About 225mg
Four shots (120ml) Quad About 300mg
One shot decaf (30ml) Single/Solo Decaf About 3mg
One shot half-caf (30ml) Single/Solo Half-Caf About 40 mg

Regular coffee drinkers who thrive on caffeine may opt for more than one espresso shot in their drink. As seen in the table above, Starbucks Coffee shops cater to such needs and may be ordered using the terms single/solo, double/doppio, triple etc.


VAMERS - FYI - LIFESTYLE - Ordering at Starbucks- A Guide to Starbucks Lingo - Starbucks Size

Before deciding on which drink to order, it is a good idea to determine the size that is required. Unlike traditional naming conventions like ‘small’, ‘medium’ and ‘large’, Starbucks Coffee mixes traditional coffee terminology with Italian, resulting in sizes that are labelled as ‘short’, ‘tall’, ‘grande’, ‘venti’ and ‘trenta’.

For the sake of familiarity, consider the Starbucks Coffee sizes as follows:

  • Short (extra small)
  • Tall (small)
  • Grande (medium)
  • Venti (large)
  • Trenta (extra large)

Although similar, hot and cold drinks are available in slightly different sizes. Warm drink are only available in short, tall, grande and venti, whereas cold drinks forgo the short size for the very large trenta.

It is important to note that the size of the drink ordered will have a direct impact on the amount of espresso used, and thus the amount of caffeine in the drink. In general, the following applies:

  • Short – 1 shot of espresso
  • Tall – 1 shot of espresso
  • Grande – 2 shots of espresso
  • Venti (hot) – 2 shots of espresso
  • Venti (iced) – 3 shots of espresso


VAMERS - FYI - LIFESTYLE - Ordering at Starbucks- A Guide to Starbucks Lingo - Starbucks Drinks Customised

A hallmark of the Starbucks Coffee franchise is the ability to customise an ordered beverage. From the liquid base and flavouring, all the way to the espresso content and topping, almost every aspect of the ordered beverage can be modified.

The following customisations and options are available when placing an order:

  • Liquid base: depending on the selected beverage, it will have either a water or a full fat milk base as standard. However, the base can be changed to suit the customer. Typical base options include Full Cream Milk, Medium Fat Milk, Fat Free Milk, Soy and Coconut Milk.
  • Hot or Iced: almost all coffee and tea based drinks on the menu can be had ‘hot’ or ‘iced’.
  • TemperatureStarbucks Coffee shops give customers the option of modifying the temperature of the coffee ordered. If no temperature is requested, the barista will normally steam the milk to about 70 degrees celsius (brewed/drip coffee is often around 90 degrees celsius). Barista’s will accommodate any temperature, but here are a few guidelines:
    • Kids – 55 degrees celsius (great for children)
    • Standard – 70 degrees celsius, the standard temperature
    • Extra Hot – 82 degrees celsius
    • Extra Extra Hot (Black Coffee and Hot Tea) – 93 degrees celsius
  • Flavours: every single beverage offered at a Starbucks Coffee shop can be modified with the addition of a syrup flavour. Some beverages already contain syrups, but the option to add more or different flavouring is always an option (unlike sugar that is free, additional pumps of syrup cost extra). There are often dozens of flavour options, some that are season specific (e.g.: Pumpkin Spice) and others that are also sugar free (great for diabetics and health conscious people).
  • Froth or Whip: most warm beverages will have a frothy top layer of milk whilst many cold beverages are topped with whipped cream. Both the froth and the cream can be customised by requesting more, leaving it as is, or asking for the beverage to be made without either.
  • Skinny: these are beverages that are made for the health conscience consumer. All beverages that receive the ‘skinny’ moniker are made with nonfat or skim milk and sugar free syrup. They will also not be topped with whipped cream, unless requested.


VAMERS - FYI - LIFESTYLE - Ordering at Starbucks- A Guide to Starbucks Lingo - Starbucks Drinks

Starbucks Coffee shops are well known for offering a large selection of warm and cold beverages to consumers; as well as sweet and savoury treats. However, as nice as it is to have a large variety to choose from, the selection process can be confusing and overwhelming because of the many options.

Traditional Beverages

  • Brewed Coffee (also known as a Drip): this is normal coffee that is similar to the ‘drip’ method that can be made at home in a percolator. Most Starbucks Coffee shops will have multiple brews available to allow consumers to taste and enjoy a variety of different roasts and blends. It can be enjoyed as is or iced. Example: “I would like a tall iced Pike Place drip, please”.
  • Latte: this beverage is made from steamed milk and espresso. It may be customised with a variety of flavours and shots of espresso. It may also be enjoyed as is or iced.
  • Americano: this beverage is made with a minimum of two shots of espresso and water. It normally has one extra shot of espresso than other similar beverages on the menu, and thus has a very strong taste. Milk and flavouring can be requested and added as desired. It may also be enjoyed as is or iced.
  • Cappuccino: this beverage is made in the same way as a latte, comprising of milk and shots of espresso, but the foam content is much higher. As such, this beverage often has a light and fluffy consistency. It may be customised with a variety of flavours and shots of espresso. Froth may also be customised, asking for “wet” will reduce the foam and asking for “dry” will increase the foamy texture. It may also be enjoyed as is or iced.
  • Macchiato: this beverage is named after an Italian word that means “marked”. Unlike other beverages whereby milk is added to the espresso and then steamed, a macchiato differs by being created in reverse: espresso is added to steamed milk by being poured over the top rather than being stirred into the drink. It may be customised with a variety of flavours and shots of espresso. It may also be enjoyed as is or iced.
  • Mocha: this beverage is a latte (steamed milk with shots of espresso) that has the addition of either white or dark chocolate. It may be customised with a variety of flavours and shots of espresso. It may also be enjoyed as is or iced.
  • Hot chocolate and Tea: these beverages are for people who would prefer to drink something that does not contain coffee. Either may be ordered with or without milk and may be customised with syrups. They may also be enjoyed as is or iced.
  • Frappuccino: these are blended drinks that can be made with or without coffee. Many speciality frappuccinos are available and vary by location and season. They may be customised with a variety of flavours and, if desired, shots of espresso.
  • Juices and Refreshas: these beverages are for people who would like something other than coffee or a creamy frappuccino and are often meant for the summer months. They are only available iced.

Special Beverages

In addition to the standard beverages above, there are a few ‘special’ options that customers can order when visiting a Starbucks Coffee shop. More often than not, these beverages are not listed, but the Starbucks Coffee baristas should know how to make them.

  • Red Eye: this beverage is a regular ‘drip’ coffee with an added shot of espresso. It mat be enjoyed as is or iced.
  • Black Eye: this beverage is the big brother of the Red Eye and includes two shots of espresso in a regular drip coffee. It also be enjoyed as is or iced.
  • Blonde: this beverage features light roasted coffee like the Starbucks Coffee Veranda and Willow blends. It may be enjoyed as is or iced.
  • Dark: this beverage is the opposite of Blonde and is the strongest and earthiest coffee available, such as the Starbucks Coffee Caffè Verona and Sumatra blends. It may also be enjoyed as is or iced.
  • Zebra Mocha: this beverage mixes both white and dark chocolate mocha variants into one mocha drink. It may be enjoyed as is, iced or as a frappuccino.
  • Dirty Chai: this beverage takes the normal Chai Tea latte and adds a shot of espresso, giving the beverage a ‘kick’. It may also be enjoyed as is or iced.
  • Old School Iced Tea: adding the term ‘Old School’ to any iced tea will result in a plain iced tea beverage that does not contain any sweeteners or additional water. The result is a tea with a very strong flavour. It may also be enjoyed as is or iced.
  • Upside Down Caramel/Hazelnut Macchiato: asking for an upside version of this beverage places the shots of espresso just below the syrups, which is then covered by steamed milk. The result is a very sweet version of the normal macchiato.
  • Affogato Style Frappuccino: ordering a frappuccino in the ‘Affogato Style’ means that a shot of espresso is added to the top rather than being blended into the beverage. This gives the beverage a much stronger coffee taste, which helps to lessen its sweetness.
  • Secret Menu: there are a variety of other ‘super secret’ menu items that exist, many of which are not exactly ‘condoned’ by Starbucks Coffee. Thing is, the baristas at Starbucks Coffee shops are well known for attempting almost anything that a customer asks for; from a Harry Potter Inspired Butter Beer Frappuccino through to a Chocolate Pumpkin Latte. Go all in and enjoy!


VAMERS - FYI - LIFESTYLE - Ordering at Starbucks- A Guide to Starbucks Lingo - Starbucks Placing Your Order

Ordering from Starbucks Coffee is generally a very easy and pleasant experience. Using the information above, however, will make placing orders even easier; baristas and regular customers will appreciate the quick and thoughtful responses too.

When placing an order, it is important to remember to start with the size of the drink, then the name (add skinny before the name if applicable), then any amendments that need to be made.

Here are some examples:

  • “Hello. I would like a Grande Caffe Mocha, Iced with an extra pump of Cinnamon Dolce. Thank you”.
  • “Hi. May I please have a Grande Caramel Macchiato with extra whip? Thank you very much”.
  • “Howzit. I’ll have a Venti Cappuccino, wet, with whip and extra hot. Cool, thanks”.
  • “Hey. I’d like a Venti Skinny Vanilla Latte with coconut milk please. Thanks”.
  • “Howdy. Please may I have a tall Red Eye with medium fat milk? Great, thanks”.

Now go forth and enjoy a delicious Starbucks Coffee beverage in style!

[Source: Base images used in this post are courtesy of WikiHow]

Owner, founder and editor-in-chief at Vamers, Hans has a vested interest in geek culture and the interactive entertainment industry. With a Masters degree in Communications and Ludology, he is well read and versed in matters relating to video games and communication media, among many other topics of interest.