December 01, 2004

More tall tales

Maryellen MacDonald has emailed some additions to our knowledge of coffee size name lore.

Madison has many alternatives to Starbucks, each with different size-naming conventions.  A good local chain is Ancora, which has a vaguely nautical theme.  Their three sizes are Regular, Tall (as in tall ships), and Clipper.  Note that Tall here equals Medium, 16 oz, rather than Small, as in the Starbucks dialect.  The locals tend to cope with this conflict, but there are occasional amusing exchanges between uninitiated customers and Ancora staff, such as

Customer: "I'll take a grande latte,"
Staff (calling to barista): "Tall Latte!"
Customer: "No, I said Grande,"
Staff: "A Tall here is a Grande."
Customer: "But I don't want a small one, I want a medium one,"

Then there's Indie Coffee, which names their three cup sizes for the three lakes of Madison:  Wingra, Monona, and Mendota (the smallest lake is for small, etc.)

[Update: and there's more to the Starbucks story -- they have five sizes, not four, according to an email from Dana Watson: "short, medium, tall, grande, venti". Dana writes "when I was back in the US for a week of vacation from teaching in Japan, I was absolutely shocked by the size of my 'medium' coffee in the airport, which was about 3 times the size of a Japanese medium."

Now I'm really puzzled, since I'm pretty sure that what I've gotten by asking for a "short coffee" at Starbucks in the U.S. is an 8-ounce cup, and this doesn't leave much space before the 12-ounce "tall" size that's the smallest one advertised on their posted price lists. I'll do some research in a local outlet at a slack time, and report back. And perhaps Dana, or another reader in Japan, will supply measured capacities for Japanese Starbucks cup sizes. ]


Posted by Mark Liberman at December 1, 2004 01:30 PM