Friday, 15 November 2013

How to order a Starbucks coffee.

Starbucks. The odds are that at some point you will find yourself inside one of the many Starbucks stores, either of your own accord or because a friend or colleague brought you there. Many of you will be aware of my almost religious enjoyment of Starbucks (after all, who else provides such a big menu and such lovely seasonal drinks?) Well, if you're going there, you'll probably want to know how to order a drink. If you think you already know how to do this though, think again. Do they ask you lots of questions whilst you're there? What size? Would you like whipped cream on that? Is it for here or to go? If so, then the odds are that - unless the barista didn't quite catch what you were saying - you aren't quite ordering in the Starbucks way. Of course, there's nothing wrong with that and the barista will be happy to oblige you, filling in the blanks by asking questions, but there's something nice about knowing how to order the Starbucks way and avoiding being asked more questions than necessary.

So, just how do you order a Starbucks drink? Well, first we'll take a look at what's on those little sticky notes the baristas use. If you've not seen these little white notes attached to drinks behind the bar, take a look at your 'to go' cup, all those little boxes with words above them mean something to a Starbucks barista - that's how the partner at the till passes on the order to the barista at the bar so that they make the right drink and then call it off correctly to the waiting customer at the hand-off point.

You can see in the image to the right that I have done a couple of 'mock' drinks labels for Starbucks beverages. Fig.1 shows a blank 'label' with the seven boxes in which information may be written (N.B. On a 'to go' cup, the 'Size' box is omitted because the size will already be identifiable from the actual 'to go' cup on which the information is written. Only on 'for here' drinks, when a label is used, does the 'Size' box make any difference.) Of course, it would take me forever to tell you all of the different abbreviations used by Starbucks partners and that's not the point of this post, suffice to say that the partners do use abbreviations and codes to denote different additions or drink qualities. It is these boxes which determine the order in which you would order a drink. Fig.2 would be read as the following drink: a tall, decaf, skinny cappuccino, whilst Fig.3 would be read as a grande, triple-shot, caramel macchiato with whipped cream and sugar-free (vanilla) syrup - yes, a caramel macchiato has vanilla syrup, not caramel; the caramel is the drizzle on top of the beverage. So now you know a bit about how the drinks are written, we can look at how you would order such a beverage.

Hopefully you will already know what you want to order by the time you get to the counter (and you may have already got your change ready). A partner will greet you and ask if they can take your order. Let's say that you wanted to order the drink in Fig.2. You would ask for: a tall, decaf, skinny cappuccino (either 'to go', or 'for here') (please). Now, you could have started with 'to go'/'for here', i.e. To go, I would like... so that the partner can pick up his 'to go' cup before you stipulate your order, but finishing with 'to go' or 'for here' works just fine. As for starting the order, as a rule of thumb (disregarding 'to go' or 'for here' for a moment), you will always want to start with the size, then decaf (if applicable). Next, if you want a different number of espresso shots from the standard 2-2-3 then you would say your shot amount next (i.e. single, triple, quad, 5-shot, or even half-shot). After the shots, it's usually time to state any flavour syrups you'd like (i.e. hazelnut, almond, peppermint, vanilla, caramel) although it is not unknown for syrups to be mentioned last (especially when going sugar-free). Then it is time stipulate if you want skinny (or whole) milk rather than the standard semi-skimmed (although frappuccinos are made with whole milk as a standard.) This would be followed by the drink itself (i.e. latte, cappuccino, mocha). Want whipped cream? Here's where you'd say that, followed by any syrups if you didn't already mention them when appropriate before. By this point, you will have created a beverage. If there is anything the barista/partner thinks you've missed, he may ask about it. You  may also be asked if you'd like to try the origins espresso currently being offered (at the time of writing this, Ethiopia has just finished being served and Christmas Blend has commenced being offered.)

So, now you know a little bit about ordering the Starbucks way. Give it a go next time you're in, you'll be surprised at how efficiently your order is taken (and you might even impress the barista!)

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  1. I think that's pretty much how I do it already except that my order is always a grande americano, no milk; for here. Of course, having ordered an americano I shouldn't have to specify 'no milk' but, alas, I always do.

    1. I'd say more people ask for 'room for milk' with an americano than don't. Technically not an americano but who's to know?

      Thanks for reading/commenting. :O)