How To: Order Coffee Like A Whiz

OR, how to order coffee that is NOT from Starbucks.

I know a ton of people in the blog world are partial to Starbucks. And I understand that! They have locations nearly everywhere, are highly customizable, and have nearly anything you could wish for on the menu.

HOWEVER, are you aware of the fact that many chain coffee shops pre-make their foam, and scoop it out of a canister when making your drink?

What about the fact that their baked goods are frozen and shipped to your location from who knows where and were made who knows when?

Needless to say, I’m a little over Starbucks.

DSCN0146Cute Italian cafes FTW.

I am now a 110% proponent of locally owned coffee shops. Until I started working at one though, I’ll be honest, some of the smaller, more “high end” coffee shops intimidated me. Intimidated? By a cafe?! Yep. I felt like only the hipster, ‘elite’, ‘coffee-people’ (for lack of a better word) went there.  I  did not know the difference between a cappuccino and a latte and had never heard of an americano. But since I began working at a cafe, I have learned SO MUCH! Not only do they (well, at least at mine) have NO problem explaining anything you are confused about, they love to! It’s fun for me to talk to someone about the varying acidity in our different coffees and help them find a drink that they will truly enjoy.

italian coffee guy This is essentially what I thought of the baristas. 

SO, if you are in a similar situation, these are my tips on how to order your (local, high quality) coffee like a PRO! Note: I may be recommending steering away from Starbucks, but that is my personal opinon. I don’t mean to bash any Starbucks-lovers and I will adore you just the same if your grande cappuccino completes you.

*disclaimer*: I have literally worked at this job for five months. I know a fraction of what some people do and I am okay with that! All i want to do is share what I have learned, not sound pretentious nor make anyone feel bad.

If you are unsure as to which type of coffee you want, don’t just ask “Which one is stronger?” If you are unaccustomed to coffee, and usually drink lattes/cappuccinos/mochas/hot chocolate, request a sweeter variety. These usually have citrus and/or floral notes, and lack the bitterness that some people associate with coffee. But if you are an aficionado and are looking for something seemingly dark, ask for a more full-bodied, robust, and/or acidic type.

DO NOT, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, ASK FOR TALL/GRANDE/VENTI/DOPIO. That is Starbucks language, friends, and it is rather insulting. It doesn’t take much to simply read the menu, but it’s also a safe bet to use normal people language such as “regular” or “large”.

Please refrain from adding the term “skinny” to your order. It makes you sound like you’re too concerned with weight to actually enjoy your drink. Again, read the menu and go with what is there – for example, my cafe uses 1% milk. People may request a 1% latte. If sugar-free is mentioned, ask for that. You get the idea.

coffeeThis is how it actually comes across and it’s not attractive. [source.]

Dark roast does not equal caffeine. Dark roast simply refers to coffee beans that have been roasted for a longer period of time and brew a slightly sweeter, more full-bodied coffee. However, dark roast actually destroys some of the natural flavourings in beans. Medium roast coffees can still be very full-bodied and robust, but still retain all the layerings of flavours. <– so go for that!

And now, for all those drinks that you see on the menu but have no idea what they are!

A london fog is not a tea latte. It is a small amount of concentrated earl grey or rooibos tea, steamed milk, and vanilla. I have EPIC plans for a homemade recipe coming your way soon. 🙂

Americano: Shot of espresso dropped in water. If the espresso is pulled properly, it will have different shades of brown, representing the different layers of espresso. If it’s a low-quality americano, it will be watery, all one colour, and extremely bitter. You can also look for a “crema” on top of an american or shot of espresso that slightly resembles latte art. That is the mark of an excellent one.

espressoPerfect example! [source.]

Macchiato: Comes from the Italian word “mark”, and therefore refers to a drink that has simply been “marked” by milk. So you know those “caramel macchiatos” you get on your way home every day in the summer? Not a macchiato, not even a little bit. At our shop, we do 2oz espresso and 2oz steamed milk, but it varies slightly.

I hope that this was helpful/informative! I would love to do more of these as I learn more about the coffee industry. Let me know what you think!

Favourite hot beverage?

Starbucks: Yay or nay?


7 thoughts on “How To: Order Coffee Like A Whiz

  1. Well I know nothing about coffee… Haha (: We don’t have any little coffee shops around me, or maybe I’m just ignorant? but I am guilty of being that starbucks girl. This was really informative. I had no idea what any of those things were!

  2. I know quite a bit about coffee. I worked at a local drive thru coffee shop for 7 yrs. I used to be very anti-Starbucks because they were the reason the coffee shop wen t out of business. How could you compete when there is a starbucks on every corner. Unfortunately I am now a Starbucks-goer. not by choice, trust me, but I have no other options. we have zero independent coffee shops in my city. but there is like a couple dozen starbucks within a 10 mile radius. When I do visit a new town or city I do always try to seek out the non-Starbucks and/or chain coffee shops and go for the local independent shops.
    I am more of an iced beverage person. only regular coffee I will drink hot, when I make it at home.

  3. I needed to read this 5 years ago already; but better late than never! We don’t have Starbucks in our COUNTRY(!) so I’m a permanant local-coffee-shop visitor. I’ve always been too ‘scared’ to try a Macchiato because A) I had no bloomin’ idea what it was B) it sounded – to me – overpowering. But since I do like my coffee unsweetened with little milk I’m thinking I should try it?

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