Coffee Lingo

By Mark Skoultchi

September 14, 2005

I don’t drink coffee, but every once in a while I’ll visit a Peet’s, Tully’s, or Starbucks to buy some tea or hot chocolate. I was looking at the menu at Starbucks the other day and noticed, maybe for the first time, the ridiculous names of their cup sizes: Tall (small), Grande (medium), and Venti (Large). My immediate reaction was amusement, especially as I witnessed customer after customer ordering a Venti Double Mocha Soy Latte, or a Grande Soy Chai Latte. What?

I decided to stop over at Tully’s and Seattle’s Best to explore their naming systems. Tully’s also uses Tall, Grande, and Vente (notice the “e” ending, distinguishing it from Starbucks!). And Seattle’s Best uses Tall, Grande, and Grande Supremo. Grande Supremo?! I promise this here and now, I will never order a Grande Supremo anything. It sounds like a Taco Bell Double Decker Chalupa or something.

What piqued my curiosity was that Tully’s and Starbuck essentially share the same curious naming system. And Seattle’s Best isn’t all that dissimilar either. This leads me to believe it all must trace back to a cult of over-caffeinated Seattle-ites with too many neurons firing during their coffee breaks.

At least I can rest well at night knowing that the Berkeley-based Peet’s Coffee & Tea is holding down the linguistic fort. Their sizes? Small, Medium, and Large. Whew…!


If you too are completely in the dark when it comes to Starbucks and its secret code for coffee ordering, and you’re too shy to ask the “barista” (aka employee), then visit the Starbucks Lingo Page:

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