If there’s one thing to know about Starbucks, it’s the menu board lingo.
Forget small, medium, and large—it’s tall, grande, and venti when you’re ordering your drink at Starbucks. And there is a reason for this naming convention, and Thrillist recently uncovered the history.
In 1986, Starbucks founder Howard Schultz was working on another coffee chain called Il Giornale. It was at this first venture that the sizing names were introduced, starting with short, tall, and grande. Schultz had taken a trip to Italy in 1983, and he was trying to make his chain more like the places he visited while abroad.
And one extra bit of trivia: Once venti was added to the menu board, there wasn’t enough room to include short. So short was cut and tall become the new small. You can still order a “small” eight-ounce drink, but you won’t find it on the menu.
The history behind the Starbucks cup sizes
If you’re a Starbucks aficionado, you’re likely familiar with the special lingo used to describe the cup sizes.
The smallest option on the menu is a “tall,” a medium is a “grande” and a large is a “venti.” But where did this unusual jargon come from?
All credit goes to the chain’s CEO, Howard Schultz, and a little trip he took to Italy in 1983, according to Thrillist.
Schultz, who briefly worked at Starbucks as director of operations and marketing before stepping down, became intrigued by the coffee scene there and decided to bring some of that Italian flair to America. When he returned to the states, he opened his own shop called Il Giornale, incorporating three unique size names to the menu: short, tall and grande.
A year later in 1987, he bought Starbucks and kept the size names the same. Then, venti was added, Thrillist noted, knocking short out of the lineup due to a lack of space on the menu board.
Already planning your next visit to Starbucks? There are now five choices. Short is no longer listed, but patrons can still order it along with a fifth option: trenta.
So why can’t you order a small? You can, but you’ll need to say short, so that the barista knows you don’t mean a tall.
Happy sipping, coffee lovers.