Being from the Pacific Northwest, where American coffee culture was born, I love drinking lattés. Seattle is the home of Starbucks and many other artisan coffee houses. This love of fancy java has spread across the US, so even McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts offer a full range of espresso drinks. Most people order drinks that don’t resemble coffee at all. So, how do you approach these places? The menu is massive, up on a huge placard and there are several people behind you in line. The pressure mounts, the perspiration flows and a choice must be made – quickly!

12 ounce latte

Here are a few tips to navigate the experience:

  1. Advance preparation: Click here for Starbucks’ espresso drink menu to get an idea of typical espresso beverages found in the USA. Typically a 12 ounce beverage (a tall in Starbucks parlance) is enough to drink without breaking the bank. There is an 8 ounce, a short, but few order this unless they are having an Americano!
  1. Phrases for more time
    • For the barista:
      1. I’m still thinking/deciding.
      2. Give me one second, please.
    • For the person behind you in line:
        1. Please, go ahead. I need more time.
        2. Please, after you.

      (* Try not to do this to more than one person behind you. It will annoy everyone there!)

  2. Adjective order: Typically, adjectives follow a certain order when they appear before a noun:
  • First, Next, Last
  • Numbers
  • Judgements & Attitudes
  • Size, Length & Height
  • Color, Origin, Material and Purpose

(source: Swan, Michael. Practical English Usage. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.)

 Example:             I’ll have the first three silly long green stuffed monkeys as my prize.

A tall dark handsome stranger walked into the room.

In Starbucks-land:    

      • CUP: That’s hot, cold, iced, or “for here.”
      • SHOT and SIZE: No stipulation for which should be first.
      • SYRUP: For your caramel, raspberry, cinnamon, vanilla, hazelnut, etc.
      • MILK: Skim (nonfat), 2%, soy, or whatever.
      • DRINK: Coffee, latté, tea, mocha, or any other name.

(source: The Speech Dudes)

Example:             I’ll have an iced grande vanilla latté, please. (grande = 16 ounces)

                               I’ll take a tall nonfat mocha.

  1. Suggestions?
    1. If you are too overwhelmed by the coffee menu, order a 12 ounce drip. Drip stands for drip coffee, or a standard cup of coffee. Nothing fancy! Do you like milk and sugar? Ask for a drip with room. You will put those extras in yourself. There is generally a table with sugar, napkins, stirrers/spoons, and milk found nearby. If you don’t see it, just ask, “Where is the milk?”
    2. Order the daily special or ask for a suggestion. “What do you recommend?” “What do you suggest?” “What’s your favorite drink to make?”

All of these are a great way to try a new drink and try out your English. Ask a question! Are you planning a trip abroad soon? Make improving your English part of your daily routine to reach your language goals. Click here for a free trial lesson!