Confession: I Don’t Know How to Order Starbucks

I’m not proud to say this, but I don’t know how to order Starbucks.

Now I shall duck to avoid the hurtling projectiles.

I know, I know, I’ve had years to learn. I could have Googled it a million times. Hell, I could be Googling it right now, but I’m not. Instead I have prepared for you this elaborate explanation/justification why I don’t know how to order Starbucks and what I’ve done to, um, cover it up.

I live in Dunkin’ Donuts Country. You can’t stand in one and miss spitting on another from where you are. It would be an understatement to say that we’re saturated with Dunkin’ stores here in New England. It’s been here all my life. I have memories, in fact, of sitting at a rotating stool, at a real counter, receiving donuts on glass plates, and beverages in proper porcelain mugs. And did I mention the silverware? They gave you silverware. Metal.

So, naturally, when Starbucks sauntered into town with all its highfalutin, well, everything, I chuckled, the same way I did when Red Lobster decided to drop proverbial anchor here, in a state with over 400 miles of coastline. I waited and watched while curious and hopeful residents wandered in for their unnecessarily complicated $4+ cup of coffee, and listened for the doors to slam quickly shut under the pressure of our unpolished obstinacy.

Only they didn’t. Granted, a few have closed (and yes, I Googled this), but there are 14 free-standing Starbucks locations in Rhode Island. You may think that’s a lot because Rhode Island is only the size of a thimble, but at last check, Rhode Island, in all its pocket-sized glory, had 124 Dunkin’ Donuts stores.

And, try as I have to hate it (fashionably, of course), there’s a lot that I happen to like, and consequently, try to obtain, but I found it is not as simple as it appears.

I’ve never truly taken the time to learn the manner of all things Starbucks. Sure, I’ve heard of the fabled Venti Quad Nonfat Half-Caff Ramma Lamma Dingdong, but that’s just so many words. So many words that would be better utilized complaining about the weather or cursing other drivers. If you lived here, you’d understand just how important those two activities actually are.

I’ve tried, and failed miserably, to order more times than I care to mention. I’ve found, though, sticking with ‘all-inclusive’ drinks like lattes, for which you can choose your size and just order the drink (i.e. a Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte) will do little damage to your ego, and for that reason, I’ve enjoyed a lot of lattes.

The few times I’ve gotten brave and ventured to order some permutation of coffee, I’ve made a Starbucks fool of myself. The terminology continues to slap me in the face and call me Sally. I’ve got the sizes down. That I’ve figured out, but the rest just escapes me. I have a fear of ordering a drink that’s both tall and skinny, and walking out with Heidi Klum and a handful of brown paper napkins. What if I’m in the mood for Sugar in the Raw? Or Truvia? Or liquid sugar? Or a lot of soy milk? Or a dollop of whipped cream? What if I want one squirt of chocolate and one squirt of caramel? What if I want one squirt of vanilla syrup, nondairy creamer, two Equals, three marbles, and a pinch of sunshine? When did coffee become so self-aware?

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, surreptitiously mumbling your order to the barista doesn’t work. And it really doesn’t work in the drive-thru.

So, what’s a coffee-lovin’ girl to do? I won’t give up because I’m no quitter. And I refuse of Google it. I’m really stubborn like that.

I’m down to drinking lattes and brewing it at home, which seems to work for me. Coffee does taste better when you skim out the shame.


  1. Mike is Happy says:

    Dear Readers – As a fellow Rhode Islander, I can confirm Stephanie’s take on Dunkin and traffic and weather and especially the complaining.

    Though as a non-coffee drinker, I have no idea what the rest of this thing is about.


  2. I will join your confession. I still haven’t even grasped the size names. I always say “small”, “medium” or “large.” You could imagine my relief when I moved to NJ and found Dunkin Donuts EVERYWHERE!


  3. Aww this post made me smile this morning. You are too funny. Pssst…. Don’t tell nobody. I don’t know how to order coffe from Starbucks either.


  4. Hi, my name is Lauren and I, too, am slightly intimidated when ordering at Starbucks.

    Wow… That feels good.


  5. hahahha… I can’t order that stuff, for the life of me.. and I still have trouble with the sizes…


  6. I am so relieved to find a Starbucks-illiterate support group! I always get just whatever’s on tap because of all the scary extra words. I can, however, manage to order a kid’s hot chocolate with whipped cream. My children forced me to overcome that hurdle.


  7. I’m a mocha-drinking girl, which makes ordering pretty simple, but I just refuse to use their silly names for sizes (I know it’s Italian, but still…) and obstinately go in and ask for a medium. I know its a venti (or I think it is; maybe that’s small… or a large; anyway…) but that’s my (petty) way of bucking the trend. I refuse to play along. :)


  8. I don’t do Starbucks, which, for a southern California native essentially means I’m going to hell.

    I’ll be in the third circle of Dante’s Inferno along with the rest of my countrywomen who drink their coffee black and home-brewed out of the Cuisinart.

    Also, my breasts are real.
    And they’re not even Venti.

    (Venti means ‘big’ right?)



    • You deserve a standing ovation for “not doing” Starbucks. It was my full intention to not do it myself, until I had these three kids basically all at once, and then I needed heavy-duty, extra-strength caffeine. Had that not happened, I’d probably still be avoiding it.

      I’ve never heard breasts described that way. You win Comment of the Day. Hands down (but not tuning into Tokyo).


  9. Hee, I’m with Julie – I to live in SoCal, non-venti, and brew my own. And you know what? Mine tastes better.

    But I do know how to order, I can safely do it if I’m out of town or somehow get wrangled into meeting someone at a SixBucks. Plus, if a barista corrects me I will look him or her in the eye and calmly repeat whatever it was that I said. You know they know what we mean when we say medium.


  10. I don’t drink coffee and after reading that, I’ll never start now! Wow. The stress! Funny stuff.


  11. coffee tastes better when you skim out the shame


    I hear you. This is why I only ever order the same thing if I’m utilizing the drive-through Starbucks.

    “Venti, brewed, 4 raw sugars.”

    Fortunately, I am not a fan of the flavored coffee drink so I don’t have to learn anything more than that. :) Good luck on your odyssey.


  12. Bwahaha…that’s awesome. Better not try Caribou then, There you even have to choose between 3 kinds of chocolate.


  13. I totally sympathize. I get totally flustered in sub shops. There’s just too many options and too much pressure!


  14. awickedmemory says:

    I think we’ve got Starbuckses like you’ve got Dunkin’ Donuts. Despite growing up around them like nasty neighbours, it took me about half a dozen times of entering a Starbucks to not give up and walk out. When I finally ordered that first magical time, it was a tall peppermint latte… because that’s what the person in front of me ordered, and I’d panicked. For a year, every time I ventured into a Starbucks I’d spend no less than ten minutes standing in the back, staring hopelessly at the menu and trying to decipher it as if it were ancient Egyptian.

    Six years later, I’m still ordering tall peppermint lattes. I mix it up a little sometimes (grande two-pump hazelnut two-pump raspberry soy latte!) but 90% of the time, it’s the tried and true and time-saving-to-say.



  15. Hi, my name is Melissa and I LOVE Starbucks. There I said it, I confessed. And by the way I can teach you anything you want to know about it. But since I am pretty sure you don’t want a tutorial just order what I do. Grande blonde roast with extra cream, one splenda, a squirt of caramel and a dollop of whip. Heaven and only $1.96 where I live in FL. Good luck!


  16. I avoided them for the longest time. I made a couple of attempts…standing at the back of the store and staring at the menu for a couple of hours… However with three under five, this didn’t go over so well. I’d walk out a couple of times, after just buying a snack for the kids. Kicking myself in the butt on the way out for buying snacks at Starbucks. Now, like you, I stick with a vanilla latte. And I ask for a medium…even though I’ve learned about the size names, I just can’t say it!


  17. First, I have to move to Rhode Island. I miss Dunkin’ Donuts more than I miss my deployed husband. Seriously.

    Also, I refuse to order venti, tall, whatever…I say small, medium, or large. Fight the power sister.


  18. Oh boy. We must be in Starbucks country where I live! My daughter has been able to order there since just before her 3rd birthday. She still asks for a tall iced mocha, no espresso. I have had to explain to many baristas that it’s just an iced chocolate milk.
    I’d go to Dunkin, but I think their coffee tastes burnt. And like it was brewed through a rusty, dirty filter. Just my two cents…


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