“Can I have a large, triple-shot, sugar-free, non-fat latte, please?”
If it takes a second to make sense of that, you’re not alone.
Sometimes ordering coffee is like learning a whole other language, but it’s absolutely necessary if you’re addicted to java (coffee).
However, a coffee shop is an entirely different scene.
In a coffee shop (or café), you’ll be expected to read the menu while standing in line. You should be prepared to tell your order to the cashier when you arrive at the counter.
There are several common questions about your order that they might ask.
Being familiar with these basic words and phrases before you walk through the door will help you order with confidence—and order something you actually like!
How to Order Coffee in English Like a Local
1. Browse the Menu
Some coffee drinkers prefer black coffee without anything in it. If this describes you, you’ll have a relatively easy time ordering coffee!
If you like to explore other basic options, here’s a list of some of the common coffee drinks you’ll find in a coffee house.
Choose from basic options
Black coffee: classic coffee made by hot water passing through ground coffee beans
Pour over: similar to classic coffee, made by hot water poured over coffee beans and dripping down into a cup
Cold brew: similar to classic coffee, made by soaking ground coffee beans in cool water for a long time
Decaf: decaffeinated coffee, or coffee with no caffeine
Espresso: a small shot of coffee made in an espresso machine
Americano: espresso with hot water added
Macchiato: espresso with just a little bit of steamed (hot) milk
Cappucino: espresso with a smaller amount of steamed (hot) milk
Latte: espresso with a larger amount of steamed (hot) milk
Frappé: espresso on ice, mixed with foamed milk
Mocha: a latte with chocolate syrup added
Steamer: hot, frothy milk with sweet flavor added
Hot tea (green tea, black tea, herbal teas, etc.)
Iced tea: generally black or green tea, served cold with ice and lemon
Lemonade: a drink of cold lemon juice, sugar and water
Italian soda: carbonated water with flavors added, such as raspberry, strawberry or lemon
Add a little something
Looking for something more adventurous? In most coffee shops, you can add flavors to your drink.
These usually cost around $0.50 and are good additions if you like sweet drinks. Here are a few popular choices:
Consider a specialty drink
Have you heard of a “blended drink”? How about a “Rooibos espresso”? These names might seem odd, but we want you to be prepared if you see them!
Many coffee houses have their own specialties, but here are a few trending, new and creative items on coffee shop menus, along with a short description of each:
Blended drinks: A cold, thick drink made from espresso, ice and milk mixed together in a blender. Blended drinks usually have sweet flavors added (such as chocolate, caramel, mint or even pumpkin), and many coffee shops offer a featured seasonal drink.
Matcha latte: A creamy drink made with matcha, a fine powder of green tea leaves. Although it was difficult to find on the menu before, most coffee shops now offer several different types of matcha-themed drinks.
Rooibos espresso: It says “espresso,” but there’s no coffee in this drink. Rooibos espresso drinks are made from Rooibos tea, but they’re called “espresso” because they have a similar texture and appearance to normal espresso.
This is a new type of drink that has become very trendy because of the health benefits of Rooibos tea.
Golden latte: This drink has no caffeine, no coffee and no tea. Another new drink that has become popular because of its health benefits, this latte is steamed milk with turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and other spices.
Of course, this list is just a small sampling of the items you’ll find at a coffee shop. If you are or want to be a coffee connoisseur (expert), you can learn more English coffee terminology in this coffee glossary.
2. Get Started with One of These Phrases
Now that you’ve had time to browse the menu and have an idea of what you want, it’s time to order!
When you approach the counter, you’ll want to say more than, “Coffee, please.” Here are a few simple phrases to help you order your coffee like a local.
Basic and polite
“Hello. I’d like a small latte, please.”
Quick and informal
“Could I have a medium coffee to go?”
“Can I get a large mocha for here?”
“I’ll take a small coffee and a donut, please.”
Ask about the menu
“Hello. Do you have any low-calorie drinks?”
“Okay, I’d like a large green tea, please.”
Ask about the cashier—it’s a good way to practice friendly conversation
“Hi. How are you doing?”
“Great. Okay, I’d like a large black coffee to go, please.”
3. Get Ready to Answer These Common Questions
Similar to ordering beer and wine in English, you usually have to specify a few details about your coffee order.
The cashier (the person who works at the coffee shop) may ask you the following questions. You can practice the responses below.
What size would you like?
“A (small/medium/large), please.”
Would you like the 8-, 12- or 16-ounce size?
“The 8-ounce size, please.”
Or if you aren’t sure about the exact size, try this:
“The smallest/largest size, please.”
Anything else besides the drink?
“No, thanks. That’s all.”
“Yes, I’d also like a bagel/sandwich/muffin.”
Is that for here or to go?
“To go, please.”
“To go, thanks.”
“For here, please.”
4. Brush Up on Coffee Shop Etiquette
If it’s your first time going to a coffee shop in North America, here are some notes to help you learn coffee shop culture.
The Smithsonian also has a short, informative video about the history of coffee culture in the U.S.
- In general, you’re expected to put sugar or sweetener (artificial sugar) in your drink after the cashier gives it to you. You can ask, “Where can I find the sugar/sweetener?” if you aren’t sure.
- Often, the cashier will ask for your name. This is because the barista (the person making your coffee) will call your name out when your coffee is ready, so remember to listen for it.
Sometimes, they say the order instead. For example, instead of saying “Alex?” the barista will say, “Large latte to go?”
- If you just ask for “coffee,” it’ll be brewed, black coffee. If you want espresso, you must order a coffee drink such as a cappuccino, latte, americano, etc., or “espresso” for a shot of espresso by itself. (Ordering a “double espresso,” or two shots of espresso, is also quite common.)
- People are often in a hurry to get their coffee. If you need extra time to read the menu, step to the side of the line and tell the person behind you, “You can go ahead. I’m still deciding.”
- If you’d like to plug your laptop or phone into a power outlet, it’s good etiquette to speak to the person or people sitting close to the power outlet. Simply say, “Hi, I need to plug in my laptop. Thanks.” before you reach across their table or behind their chair.
5. Practice Before You Go with This Partner Dialogue
If you practice before your arrival, you’ll have more confidence when placing your order. Find a friend and make use of this simple partner dialogue.
Cashier: Hi there! What can I get for you?
Customer: Hello. I’d like an americano, please.
Cashier: Okay. What size would you like?
Cashier: What size?
Customer: Oh. A small, please.
Cashier: Okay. Anything else besides the drink?
Customer: No, thanks. That’s all.
Cashier: And is that for here or to go?
Customer: For here, please.
Cashier: Your name, please?
Customer: (your name)
Cashier: Okay. Your total comes to $3.49. Are you paying with cash or credit?
Customer: Credit. (Give the cashier the credit card.)
Cashier: Great. We’ll call your name when your order is ready. You can pick it up at the counter over there, okay?
Customer: Okay, thanks!
Cashier: Thank you!
With these phrases, you’re prepared to order your coffee with confidence.
And since you’re already going out for a drink, why not take advantage of the opportunity and practice English during your coffee break?
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.