Over the past few years I have had the best summers of my life working at a local café back home, and I have worked at Starbucks for a school year. I can say that being a Barista is something that I’ve become pretty passionate about. Don’t worry, I won’t judge your coffee order. Inspiration from other baristas, customers, and experimentation has led me to find my absolute favourite drink combinations that I want to share for anyone looking to spice up their cuppa-joe game. I’ve additionally included a coffee glossary (of sorts) so you can spice up both your coffee game, and your vocab.
Disclaimer: I drink oat, almond, and regular milk, so for each of the drinks below I’ve specified which milk I usually order for which drink, but all would be good with whichever milk you prefer. I am also not much of an iced-drink kind of girl, so if you are on team hot as well, read on!
Some Coffee Terms to Make You Sound Like a Pro:
Americano: espresso shots and hot water
Americano misto: an americano with steamed milk
Cafe misto: a coffee with steamed milk
Latte: espresso shot(s) with steamed milk; consider this your foam baseline, so average microfoam
Flat White: espresso shot(s) with steamed milk microfoam; little to no foam
Cappucino: espresso shot(s) with steamed milk with a lot of foam
Cortado: like a mini-size flat white
Machiatto: like a mini-size cappuccino
Doppio: double; usually refers to the number of espresso shots
Dirty Chai: a chai latte with a shot of espresso in it
Red Eye: a coffee with a shot of espresso in it
- Cafe Misto with Vanilla & Topped with Cinnamon
Coming in hot at first place is my current addiction, a cafe misto with a shot of vanilla syrup and some cinnamon on top. In case your coffee terminology is a bit shaky and you skipped the terms, cafe means coffee, and misto means steamed milk. So essentially we have a coffee with vanilla syrup, topped with the steamed milk. For this drink, my preference is to order it with 1%/skim/nonfat milk. In my opinion, lighter roast to medium roast coffees are best for this drink if you have that option as well. I love this drink because it’s not too sweet and the taste of the coffee is not overshadowed by the vanilla.
How it’s made: Syrup and coffee are mixed together and to fill about ⅔ of the cup, then milk is steamed and added on top to finish it off. Then, cinnamon is sprinkled on top.
- Matcha Latte with Vanilla + Peppermint
Coming in at number 2, is a matcha latte with half vanilla and half peppermint syrup in it. You have probably heard of this combination before, either from TikTok or your matcha-obsessed bestie, but if not, let me explain. I love matcha as much as the next person and I prefer it sweetened with vanilla syrup instead of a simple/classic syrup. I prefer mine made with almond milk. This drink feels minty fresh, not too sweet, and perfectly festive, which is why I love it near the holidays.
How it’s made: Matcha powder is combined with hot water using a matcha whisk. Vanilla and peppermint syrups are mixed in and milk is steamed and added to fill the cup.
- Oat Milk Americano Misto with Brown Sugar + Cinnamon on Top
This is a Starbucks menu item already, available iced or hot, so it may already be one of your faves. To me, oat milk and brown sugar is a match made in heaven, and together with the espresso comes it makes a warm, dreamy, pick-me-up. In case you didn’t know, an americano is espresso shots and hot water combined to make a stronger, oftentimes more bold, cup of coffee. And misto, you know that one now, is steamed milk which tops off the drink. I find that if brown sugar syrup isn’t available, 2 brown sugar packets should do the trick.
How it’s made: Double/triple espresso shots and hot water are poured to fill the cup about ⅔ of the way. Then the brown sugar syrup is added and the milk is steamed and used to top off the drink. Finally, cinnamon is sprinkled on top.
- Dirty Chai Latte Topped with Cinnamon
Need a kick in your chai latte? I’ve got you covered. Chai lattes are a cafe classic, the warm, aromatic spices are enough to comfort me any day. A dirty chai is a chai latte with a shot of espresso in it, which really elevates the game if you can’t decide between a tea latte or a coffee-based drink. This is one of my fall and early winter favourites, namely because the chai spices have a seasonal feel for me and I need something to warm my soul up. This drink is perfect if you like chai flavour but want a bit more caffeine.
How it’s made: Steep a chai tea bag in a small amount of hot water for a couple of minutes. Then add chai syrup and a single/double shot of espresso and steam your milk. The drink is finished off with the steamed milk and a cinnamon sprinkle.
- Half Hot Chocolate & Half Coffee
Please hear me out, I know to some this sounds criminal and childish, but I will die on the hill of its deliciousness. And yes, this is different from a mocha which is made with espresso and steamed milk. Honestly, not all hot chocolate is created equal, and I would only order this drink from a local cafe as the hot chocolate is likely homemade with a more unique chocolate syrup. This drink is perfect if you have a sweet tooth, or as an after-noon coffee drink, as it’s not a complete caffeine overload. Also, if you are just easing into the coffee game, this drink might be your best friend.
How it’s made: The hot chocolate sauce and milk are steamed together to make the hot chocolate. Fill half of the cup with coffee, then add the hot chocolate to fill the rest of the cup.