How Starbucks Got The Names For Its Cup Sizes

Ever wonder why the smallest drink size at Starbucks is called a tall, or why a grande is actually a medium? Well, according to the Independent, it has to do with the coffee chain's original cup names. When the first Starbucks opened, there were only three drink sizes: short, tall, and grande. But after being in business for some time, the short drink size ended up being too small for customers' tastes. So Starbucks decided to introduce a bigger cup size, venti, and drop short completely, leaving tall as the smallest size and grande as the new medium.

As for how Starbucks decided on the name venti, the credit goes to longtime CEO Howard Schultz, who at the time was Starbucks's director of retail operations and marketing, according to the chain's official website. The company explains that Schultz traveled to Milan in 1983 and immediately was drawn in by the city's coffee culture. When he returned to the United States, he was inspired to bring the same experience to Starbucks. That was done not only by introducing coffee drinks like cappuccinos and macchiatos but by also bringing many of Italy's coffee terms to the Starbucks menu. Given that the next size up from the grande is 20 ounces for hot drinks, the name venti, which translates to 20 in Italian, fit the rebrand perfectly.

The names of Starbucks cup sizes aren't as confusing as you think

If Howard Schultz had visited Italy sooner, perhaps all the cup sizes would be in Italian. But as Reader's Digest shares, instead of changing all the names when venti was introduced, Starbucks kept tall and grande, as is. Short technically still exists too, but only on the secret menu (via LifeHacker). Any new cup sizes that came along have since followed the trend of using Italian terms. After venti, came the 30-ounce trenta and the 3-ounce demi, short for demitasse, the type of cup used for espresso, according to the company.

If you're still confused by these names, you can just as easily order by saying small, medium, or large. Either way, Starbucks isn't too worried. Insider reports that the unique naming system has actually contributed to a great deal of Starbucks' success. It's an easy way to set them apart from competitors, and it's all part of that Italian coffee shop experience Schultz was going for.