Coffee Nation

- wadE

As a general rule, I don't touch coffee. In fact, I have never drunk a cup of coffee in my life. I've had a sip a few times, but when I do I make the same face I made when my dad let me have a sip of his Old Milwaukee when I was five. Yuuuuu-ck!

With many of our mood altering beverages, I understand that coffee is an acquired taste (much like Old Mill). While the smell can be pleasant when brewing, the residual coffee stench whether it's in the office, or on someone's breath is quite foul. Even coffee drinkers would agree that the smell of burnt coffee in the office is less welcome than someone reheating tuna casserole in the break room.

However, this article isn't about my disdain for the taste of coffee, it's about my disdain for the cult surrounding it, most offensive in this cult is Starbucks.

Recently I cam across a little booklet that Starbucks gives out to help people order coffee. This booklet is 22 pages long. That's right, 22 &*%$#@ pages long!!! It's coffee! Here, let me help you. "I'd like a cup of coffee...cream and sugar." All the help you need, minus 21+ pages!!!

Ok, ok... I understand there are some different flavors of coffee, and espressos, and lattes. So I can understand someone needing a little guidance and explanation of the variety of coffee they can purchase at Starbucks. At least something to let them know what the hell Venti is.

Let's see what could possibly fill up 22 pages...

Title: Make It Your Drink: A Guide to Starbucks Beverages
Pretty standard, with a cute little drawing of a Starbucks cup.

Pages 1-6: Glossary
That's right, six pages of terms you can use while ordering coffee. The book gives a great sample order that uses some terms most people wouldn't be familiar with: "I'll have a grande, quad, ristretto, nonfat, dry cappuccino, please!" I personally like the "!" at the end. Why not add, "...and make it snappy, I've got a nail appointment and a visit with the plastic surgeon!"

Some of my personal favorites:
Con Panna: Italian for "with whipped cream" -- You're kidding... do people actually use that in the store in place of saying 'with whipped cream'? Seriously, I need to know this.
Doppio: Italian for "double", but only used when referring to a two-shot espresso. One orders a doppio espresso con panna, but a double latte. -- Are we Italian, are we in Milan?
Dry vs. Wet -- Dry is more foam, Wet is more milk. While I can see the need for these terms, they still make me laugh
Venti -- Coming up with a new name for Extra Large is the pinnacle of pretentiousness.
With Legs: To go -- No, I'm not's in there.

Pages 7-8: "What's Your Drink?"

These pages setup the next section of the booklet which centers on your options. You can choose your espresso, syrup, milk, other modifiers.

Pages 9-10: Espresso
This is about the only page that makes sense to me. You've got Regular, Decaf, Extra Shots, Half-Caf, and Ristretto (short pull of espresso capturing only the sweetest part). Pretty standard, except for that Ristretto nonsense at the end. Of course it all makes sense when you see "It's for those who are very particular about their coffee," read: pretentious.

Pages 11-12: Syrup
All pretty standard here except for Valencia, which is orange flavor. Is "orange" too pedestrian of a word? Using Raspberry seems to be fine, same for Almond or Hazelnut. Granted "Valencia" is a type of orange, but still. Are you catching my theme here? (the word ostentatious comes to mind)

Pages 13-14: Milk
Whole, Nonfat, Lowfat (2%), Half-and-half, Organic, Soy. Half-and-half: Living decadently? Ask for a latte made with half-and-half. It's called a "breve," and it's sweet and creamy. There's a small extra charge. -- Oh, it's called a "breve?" Pardon my ignorant American ways. See, in my country we already have a way of asking for's called "half-and-&%$#@-half!!!" Under the Soymilk entry there is a sentence that says: "Just ask you barista to substitute Silk soymilk for a small extra charge." Barista? Didn't they fight in Honduras during the 80's? Ok, I'll drop the barista thing... I should be surprised that Starbucks didn't go the Subway route and call their employees Coffee Artists. My only complaint is that I've read this thing cover to cover. There is no mention of whom or what a "barista" is. Maybe that's in a different booklet. Some sort of "Guide to Starbucks Infrastructure" that is a companion booklet to this one.

Pages 15-16: Other Choices
Dry (or Foam), Wet (or Flat), Whipped Cream (or not), Light, Sugar Substitute, Extra Hot. Oddly enough, they don't remind the reader that Whipped Cream is called "Con Panna." Must have been an editor's oversight. I will say that Extra Hot is a damn good idea though. Winters here in the great white north could turn your beverage into a frappuccino by the time you get back to your car. (Ahhhh, now they've got me using coffee terms!!!)

Pages 17-18: "Fun with Frappuccino"
Speak of the devil. Did you know that Coffee-free Frappuccino beverages are available...their called crèmes. If you had read your Glossary you would have known that!!!

Pages 19-20: "How to Order"
This section tells you there is "no 'right' way to order at Starbucks," but here's how you should do it!!! It's a quick little lesson on "barista-speak," and it's "easy to learn".

  1. Cup -- "If you don't specify, we'll put it in our to-go cup." Don't you mean 'cup with legs'?
  2. Shots and size -- Tall = 12 oz., Grande = 16 oz., Venti = 20 oz. for hot or 24 oz. for cold drinks.
  3. Syrup
  4. Milk and other modifiers -- this would be the time and place for your extra foamy request
  5. The drink itself

Pages 21-22: Example
In Mad-Lib style, they give an example. "I'd like to have an Iced, Decaf, Triple, Grande, Cinnamon, Nonfat, No-Whip Mocha." Whew, that was easy!

Ok, all in all, it's actually a pretty darn good little booklet. It's informative and helpful for both coffee veterans and newbies. My issue is just that. That ordering a cup of coffee has become so damn complicated that there is a need for such a book, especially one with 22 pages!!!

Can anyone say too many choices?

- 03/09/2004

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