I remember the first time I ordered a drink in Starbucks. I went to one of the stores for a job interview. The people who interviewed me wanted to do the interview there. I remember coming to the counter without having anything in mind about what drink to order. It was kind of intimidating because I didn’t know anything about how to order a drink at Starbucks and there were many signs that I didn’t understand. Under the pressure to order, I asked for a cup of tea because I don’t drink coffee. It gives me the jitters. Surprisingly the girl behind the counter asked back what kind of tea did I want. Perplexed, I asked what kinds of tea did they have. All I wanted was just a plain cup of tea. I wasn’t aware that there is a range of varieties to choose from. I didn’t want to look stupid so I choose something that I’ve read in a book before. Artemis Fowl always have Earl Grey, so I asked for that kind of tea. Besides, it sounds like Dorian Gray, the character of Oscar Wilde’s only novel.
To me ordering a drink from Starbucks was like trying to answer a multiple-choice test that has too many choices. I was never sure which one is correct answer because every choice looks right and I couldn’t tell the difference between those choices. For example, if I want to order coffee with milk what do I have to order? Is it (a) a cup of cappuccino (b) a cup of caffè latte, or (c) a cup of macchiato. Well, for me it’s all the same. It’s coffee with milk. To make it worst Starbucks also uses different kinds of milk, from whole milk, nonfat milk, low fat milk, to soymilk. So, I would have at least twelve drinks to choose from because I can take this to another level by modifying it further by adding syrup and other modifiers. I was never sure of my order.
Because I want to pass the test with flying colors, I educate myself. Like any other test, you have to study hard if you want to pass. Educating myself on how to order a drink for Starbucks is like learning biology. When I learned biology in high school I have to memorize all these Latin terms of everyday words, like Oryza sativa for rice or Felis catus for cat. In Starbucks, there is an Italian word for nearly everything. As I pointed earlier, in my part of the world I use the word “coffee with milk” but in Starbucks there are at least three different terms to specify the beverage: cappuccino, lattè, and macchiato. I learned that there are differences between cappuccino, lattè, and macchiato. Cappuccino uses foamed milk while lattè uses steamed milk, and macchiato is espresso with small amount of foamed milk.
Like in biology where scientists have a certain way to name an organism, the baristas in Starbucks also have their own way of calling a drink. This is a way to order information. Panthera tigris is different from Panthera pardus in biology, as caramel cappuccino is different from vanilla cappuccino in Starbucks. In biology the genus always comes before the species. In Starbucks the order is cup, shots and size, syrup, milk and other modifiers, and the drink itself. So, everything else being equal, caramel cappuccino is cappuccino with caramel syrup while vanilla cappuccino is cappuccino with vanilla syrup.
The good thing about this complicated way of ordering a drink in Starbucks is that I could always personalize my drink and experiment with new ways of making a drink. I can sweeten my drink with syrup when I want to sugar things up or take it plainly without any modifiers. Everybody could come up with a drink that no one else have ever think about before. The first time I ordered green tea frappucino, the barista asked me whether I want to have chocolate chip and/or caramel syrup in my drink. The thought of adding chocolate chip or caramel syrup to green tea never crossed my mind because while I was in Japan green tea was served by itself, not even with sugar. I have a tendency to say yes to every request so I said yes to the chocolate chip but not to the caramel because the thought of having green tea with sugar is too weird for me.
The second time I wanted a green tea frappucino I already had something in mind when I came to the counter. To me the most natural thing you could add to any tea is lemon, like lemon tea. In my mind I have the idea that Valencia frappucino would taste like lemon tea. This time, the barista was the one who frowned at my order. The barista asked looked confused when I ordered a Valencia green tea frappucino and asked me whether I was sure with the order. I couldn’t be surer so the barista made the drink for me. When I got my drink instead of getting a drink that tasted like lemon tea I ended up with a totally different taste that was unique and personal. It was a pleasant surprise.
So now every time I go to Starbucks I always already have something in mind. Next time I go to Starbucks I want an iced-grande-half-caf-hazelnut-chocolate-chip-mocha -frappuccino. And by the way about the job interview, I aced it and got the job!