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Why Starbucks Coffee Sizes Aren’t Small, Medium, and Large

Brooke Nelson

When it comes to Starbucks sizes, you may be getting more than you bargained for when you order your drink. With size names like tall, grande, and venti, it can be hard to tell what size you're ordering and how much you're actually getting. Sometimes, Starbucks sizing seems like a company secret, ranking up there with how to get free refills and how much employees really get paid.

According to the Starbucks website, order sizes can range from "Short" to "Trenta Cold."


This Starbucks size offers eight fluid ounces, the perfect size for cappuccinos, according to Business Insider. This secret menu size used to be offered on the regular menu, but as Starbucks sizes grew, the popularity of this order shrunk until it stopped being included on the regular menu.


Tall is the smallest of all Starbucks sizes you'll see posted on the regular menu, coming in at a whopping 12 fluid ounces.


If you order a "grande," you'll get 16 fluid ounces of any hot or cold beverage.


A Starbucks Venti comes in two variations: Venti Hot which is 20 fluid ounces and Venti Cold which is 24 fluid ounces. Keep that in mind when ordering iced coffee come springtime.

Trenta Cold

The largest of all Starbucks sizes, Trenta Cold is only available in certain iced beverages like the iced coffee and cold brew and will contain 31 fluid ounces.

So why do we order a tall, grande, or venti coffee instead of the typical small, medium, or large? This common coffee conundrum probably falls among the many “unexplained Starbucks quirks,” along with why Starbucks’ tables are round and the surprising origin of its name. Seriously, what's the deal with these unusual Starbucks sizes?

Legend has it that former Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz took a trip to Italy in 1983, where he was “captivated by the romance of the Italian coffee bar,” according to the Starbucks website. So much so, in fact, that he decided to emulate it in the United States with his own coffee shop, called Il Giornale.

With his shop, Schultz “wanted to convey a different image, something far more exotic than a simple cup of joe,” author Karen Blumenthal wrote in her book Grande Expectations. And “since the stores were designed around the concept of Italian coffee bars, [Schultz] wanted distinctive names” for the beverages to honor that heritage. Hence the unconventional (and often Italian!) terms like macchiato, latte, and grande.

Il Giornale eventually expanded into the Starbucks franchise as we know it today. But the story doesn't end there. In the ‘90s, its menu listed three sizes: short, tall, and grande. A short essentially correlated with a small, a tall was a medium, and a grande was a large. The introduction of the venti size demoted the tall—making it the new short—and removed the short size altogether. However, you can still order a “short” at most Starbucks locations today. Surprised? Don’t miss 13 more secrets your barista won’t tell you.

Now that we've solved the mystery behind Starbucks sizes, here's another one: Why can't the baristas spell anyone’s name right? Our guess: You might be guilty of committing one of their biggest pet peeves.

[Source: Inquirer]