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Word For Word

There's a latte to learn

By COLETTE BANCROFT
Published April 12, 2004

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Don't be going into Starbucks without doing your homework.

The chain that caffeinates the world prides itself on offering customers a wealth of choices, so many different brews, milks, temperatures, syrups and sizes that it reckons more than 19,000 variations are possible.

To help you avoid dithering when it's your turn at the counter, Starbucks has published "Make It Your Drink," a minicourse on the art and science of placing a Starbucks order.

In an e-mail, Starbucks regional marketing manager Jerry Thorpe wrote, "With that high number of beverage possibilities some Starbucks customers may not be aware of all of their options, and in some cases may not even be aware of what a certain beverage is. We created the booklet to help our customers decipher these options."

The company has received "great feedback" on the booklet, he writes. "The guide has helped those customers who used to walk into stores and say, "I have no idea what to order,' or "Why does Starbucks use words like venti and Frappuccino?' "

We found a basket of the booklets on the counter at the Starbucks in downtown St. Petersburg. At 31/2 by 41/4 inches, the booklet is small enough to tuck in a pocket or purse, handy for brushing up on terminology before you venture through those green-framed doors.

First, just digest 18 pages on the differences between double and doppio (Italian for double), espresso and ristretto, wet cappuccino and dry cappuccino.

Learn about 11 kinds of syrup and six kinds of milk, not to mention Starbucks' cup size system: tall equals small, grande equals medium and venti (Italian for 20, trademarked by Starbucks) equals large, because a large holds 20 ounces. Unless it's an iced large, in which case a venti holds 24.

Once you have grasped that body of knowledge and meditated until you have reached clarity about your personal preference, you are ready for the next step: the order of your order.

That's right. Starbucks wants you to convey your correctly phrased choices in the correct order. You can't just blurt out all that information at random. If you stand there and request a "Valencia mocha soy-milk quad in a for-here," you're just blathering, and the barista might well rap your knuckles with last week's biscotti.

But don't worry. The booklet ends with a worksheet. Fill in the blanks after "I'd like to have a . . ." and you'll have the grammar of the Starbucks order at your fingertips. There's even a reward, a gold star of coffee studies: a coupon for customizing your coffee.

But don't try to use it until you've studied.

- COLETTE BANCROFT, Times staff writer

How to order

If you're nervous about ordering, don't be.

There's no "right" way to order at Starbucks. Just tell us what you want and we'll get it to you.

But if we call your drink back in a way that's different from what you told us, we're not correcting you. We're just translating your order into "barista-speak" - a standard way our baristas call out orders. This language gives the baristas the info they need in the order they need it, so they can make your drink as quickly and efficiently as possible.

"Barista-speak" is easy to learn. It's all about the order of information. There are five steps to the process.

1. Cup.

The first thing a barista needs to know is what cup to grab for your drink. If you don't specify, we'll put it in our to-go cup. But you can also ask for a for-here, iced or personal cup.

2. Shots and size.

Do you want decaf or extra espresso? Here's something to know: Tall (12 fl. oz.) drinks usually come with one shot; Grandes (16 fl. oz.) have two. Venti drinks have two (for 20 fl. oz. hot drinks) or three (for 24 fl. oz. cold drinks). If you add a shot to a tall, you're getting a double-tall.

3. Syrup.

This is the most popular way to customize. We have many different syrup flavors to sweeten or spice up a drink.

4. Milk and other modifiers.

This is when you tell us what milk you want. And if you want something else, like "extra hot" or "extra foamy."

5. The drink itself.

Don't forget the most important part! Are you having a latte, a mocha - or something entirely different?

[Last modified April 9, 2004, 15:15:39]


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