At my old workplace, one of my coworker/friend invited me to downstairs to have coffee with her on our break. It was a chilly winter day. Our office was in downtown in Seattle in one of the tall buildings. Two famous coffee shops competed with each other on two different floors inside the tall building.

There were dozens of Ma and Pa coffee shops in the building, too.  Actually when I think of it, there are practically five or six coffee houses in Downtown Seattle in one block.  Sometimes, two of the same kind of coffee houses are just a block apart. However, my friend most preferred the coffee with the Mermaid Logo.  She did go to the competitors when her regular barista was not in making coffee.

This was around the time; I just started learning about specialty coffee. Staring at the menu, I was slightly intimidated as far as what to order in the long line that was moving efficiently fast.  Ordering speciality coffee in Seattle, you have to learn the verincular of coffee procurement.   “I want a tall, um, to go, ahm.”  I told my freind to go ahead and order and I will order after her.

My friend was an expert at coffee ordering.  She introduced me to “two pumps of white chocolate mocha with 2% milk, with extra whipped cream and extra hot to go.” I ordered what she had with just one pump and just a small amount of whipped cream.  With that drink, my life changed.  I started actively seeking out coffee houses.  The white chocolate mocha replaced the occasional mocha I ordered on Fridays, and on cold, dark, and rainy days.

I then upgraded or downgraded depending on how you look at it, changing my request to a tall 2% vanilla latte. Being that it is Seattle, you can practically customize your coffee any way you want it. Sometimes, it is fun to hear people’s requests as I wait to order my coffee or waiting for my coffee to be whipped out on the counter.

Shortly afterwards, my brother introduced to me a wet cappuccino. I didn’t switch the taste of the vanilla to give it up for steamed milk in a cute cup.  Although I could had probably asked for vanilla in my cappuccino, I never did.

Since then I moved away from that building, landing myself in another in a building. But no matter where you go in Seattle, you can’t escape a coffee house with in half mile. When I say half a mile, I am being extremely conservative.

With the new location, I ventured out to try the local coffee shops in Seattle.  During weekends, I would venture out further away from Seattle and when I went out for out of town for weekend trips.

If you are new to the coffee world, or just visiting to Seattle/ Seattle area,  you could say “tall, to here, latte, single shot.”  But that doesn’t jive with the common tongue of coffee ordering in Seattle. Even if you do order like that; the baristas here still will work with you to get your coffee right. If you really want to learn some basic lingos, here is a quick basic guide on  how to order speciality coffee in Seattle.

Ordering coffee in Seattle and outskirts of Seattle

First, there are three types of coffee, I have seen in most places. There is regular coffee like drip coffee, there is expresso (pronounced espresso), and then there is specialty coffee.

  • Drip coffee is coffee at its basic, which is hot water poured over coffee ground manually or by machine.
  • Expresso is steam that has been forced at high pressure through coffee grounds, made with an expresso machine. (To me, it has strong, intense coffee flavor).
  • Specialty coffee is usually shot(s) of expresso, milk, and adding syrup and toppings to your caffeinated or decaffeinated drink based on your taste. It is more like a dessert than coffee.

Similarities of drip and specialty coffee:

  • They both come in two forms: either caffeinated or decaffeinated.
  • For both types of coffee you would need to know the size of cup you want your beverage.

Drip and specialty coffee sizes come in the following:

  • Short (8 fluid ounces), extra small.  (Typically, this is not on the menu, but you can request it)
  • Tall (12 ounces)
  • Grande (16 ounces)
  • Venti (20 ounces)
  • Trenta (31 Ounces)

When ordering at Starbucks, you order with the description of the size. Ex.  “I would like to order a Grande Macchiato to go.”

In the ma and pa stores, they usually go by cup ounces.

 Expresso comes in shots

  • 1 shot
  • 2 shots
  • 3 shots or however many you like

Expresso shots can be drank by itself or you can fancy it up. Couple of my friends I had been out with like to drink it like a shot. There are many ways to prepare expresso adding double shots and topping it with whipped cream for example.  Or you can order shots of expresso with just boiling hot water poured over, know as an Americano.

When ordering specialty coffee, keep in mind

For Starbucks, a 12-ounce latte comes with one shot of expresso.  For the Ma and Pa coffee houses that I had been, they typically serve 2 shots in a tall latte.  If you are in a ma and pa stores, and if you only want shot of expresso in your specialty coffee, you can say something like, “I would like to have a single shot, 12 ounce latte, whole milk, please”


  • Extra hot
  • Warm
  • Cold


  • Whole
  • 2%
  • 1%
  • Breve
  • Soy
  • Almond


  • Vanilla
  • Raspberry
  • Hazelnut
  • White chocolate
  • House made
  • Seasonal syrups

Example: “I would like a grande with 2 pumps of white chocolate and no whipped cream.”  Most places I had gone to comes with whipped cream on their white chocolate.  If you don’t want the whipped cream you have to specifically say that at the time you order.


  • Whipped cream
  • Spices
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee bean


  • Extra hot
  • Warm
  • Cold


  • No foam
  • Thin or light foam
  • Heavy foam

*Note: For most specialty coffees such as your mochas and lattes and cappuccinos:

  • Milk is steamed
  • A minimum of one shot of espresso comes with your specialty coffee. You can change the amount of espresso.
  • A thin layer of foam is topped. You can also request to have no foam or more or less foam.

By saying that a cappuccino is a beverage with equal parts of espresso, milk, and foam.  A wet cappuccino has more steamed milk than foam.  A dry cappuccino has more foam. You can sprinkle cinnamon and add sugar for a different taste.

Where are you going to drink your specialty coffee?

I would like a tall latte for “for here cup.”  For here means you would like to drink it at the coffee house with one of their cups, preferably the coffee mug.

“To go” means that you would get served in a to go cup, unless you brought your own coffee mug/cup.

The lingo of ordering speciality coffee in Seattle

You could order your coffee any way you like.  Typically the ordering of the speciality coffee starts with the size of the cup, amount of espresso, then you customize the rest.    If you are in ma and pa shop, your order would be something along the lines of “I would like to have a single shot, 12 ounce vanilla latte, whole milk with whipped cream, extra hot, for here cup.”

If you are in Starbucks you could say the same but their lingo is tall, grande and venti.  You could practice, “I would like to have a tall vanilla latte, with two shots with whole milk topped with whipped cream, extra hot, in a for here cup.”

Enjoy your latte, mocha, cappuccino, or what pleases your coffee tongue.

Ordering speciality coffee in Seattle

Ordering speciality coffee in Seattle