How big is a cup of coffee?

How many sizes of drink does a coffee shop sell and what are they called? In the interests of research, I went to the nearest coffee shop and had a good look at their board while they were making a small hot chocolate for me.

Two of their drinks come in one size only, but in one case that one size is ‘small’ and in the other, it’s ‘regular’. Most of their drinks come in two sizes, but those are sometimes ‘small’ and ‘regular’, and sometimes ‘regular’ and ‘large’. Some of their drinks come in three sizes, ‘small’, ‘regular’ and ‘large’. So if I want the smallest available size, what do I ask for? If I ask for ‘small’, I run the risk that the attendant will say approximately ‘We don’t serve that in small’ (but they may figure out that ‘small’ can mean ‘smaller’); if I ask for ‘regular’, I run the risk that I will get a larger size than I wanted, which is what happened yesterday.
Part of this is decided either by the shop or the chain (or perhaps the consumer affairs department). The shop I was just in had three cups on display marked ‘Small – 14 oz [414 mL]’, ‘Regular – 16 oz [473 mL]’ and ‘Large – 20 oz [591 mL]’. That doesn’t explain why some drinks come in some sizes but not in others.

Many coffee shops in South Korea have their drinks menu in Korean and English, though I’ve still got to locate what I want. Cappuccinos are standard fare (but I still need to find out whether the smaller/est size is ‘small’ or ‘regular’), but some coffee shops sell hot chocolate and others don’t. Some coffee shops have their drinks menu in Korean only, which makes it doubly difficult.


8 thoughts on “How big is a cup of coffee?

  1. i can’t help you – I very rarely buy a coffee while I am out and then usually if I do, I will say what size do you have and they will hold up the sizes and I will point to the one I want


  2. One chain here, in the US, uses Tall (their smallest size), Vente (intermediate), and Grande (largest), while another (my favorite) calls theirs by the actual volume of the cup, 8oz, 12oz, 16oz. This method makes the most sense to me. I can order an 8oz. latte knowing exactly what I’lol get. Neither place sells any drink in less than the full complement of sizes, and even have an extra size, Children’s, in several cases (hot chocolate, milk, juice, for example).
    Have you tried asking them to make you your drink in the size you want, even if it isn’t on the board? A lot of places will do so, at least around here.


    • I most often buy coffee or hot chocolate at the coffee shop on campus, and most of the attendants there know what I want. The problem really arises when I go elsewhere.
      Related: sometimes I’ve asked for a cappuccino and am asked ‘Cold or hot?’. To me, ‘cappuccino’ is ‘hot’ – cold coffee is ‘iced coffee’.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I had a funny, and slightly annoying, encounter last summer when trying to order an iced coffee at a small local coffee shop. The shop, not part of a chain, sells regular coffee, espresso, cappuccino, latte, various sorts of hot chocolate, and several kinds of iced juices.
        Notice the “iced” portion of the last…
        I was there with two friends, following a long hike in the woods along the beach, and was very hot. My friends ordered iced juices, but I,wanted an iced coffee. The waitress informed me that they don’t have iced coffee.
        “You do have coffee, don’t you?” I asked, thinking that maybe they had run out and not made a new batch yet. I was willing to wait.
        “Yes!”, she said brightly, pointing to a potful behind her.
        “Okay. Do you have ice?” I asked, thinking that maybe my friends had gotten the last of the ice.
        “Oh, yes!” she said, opening the little freezer beside her.
        “Well, can you just put some ice into a cold cup and pour coffee over it?” I finally asked.
        I could now almost see the light bulb turning on above her head.
        “Ah! Yes! I can do that!” she replied, and made me a perfectly delicious drink.


      • Tall, grande, and,venti…must have been Starbucks. Many years ago they offered small as a size, along with two others, grande being the largest. When they eventually went to the newer sizing regime small was eliminated. The new smallest size became tall (which had been their intermediate size).
        you bet!
        Since they do offer children’s sized hot chocolate I would often ask for a coffee in a kids hot cup.


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