Habla Café?

How to order coffee anywhere in the world 

Maybe it was the airport that closed all the bars at 9 p.m. Maybe it was the unreasonably suspicious customs guy who made you so nervous you almost told him the wrong last name. Or maybe it was the luggage carousel of despair that failed to produce, well, anybody’s luggage.

Whatever your travel woes, one thing’s for sure: When you finally get to that unicorn of a destination, you need a big, comforting cup of nature’s happy water (otherwise known as coffee). And depending on where said destination is, you may find yourself utterly dumbfounded about how to order your precious dose of caffeine. Even worse, you may have stumbled into a particularly pretentious coffee culture, where tourists live in fear of the barista’s judging gaze.

Fear not: Our handy guide to the world’s coffee terminology and ordering techniques should ensure your travels are always caffeinated the proper way.

Australia/New Zealand

Australasia is serious (dare we say snobby?) about its coffee. Throughout Australia and New Zealand, coffee culture is a booming (hyperactive) force. And Aussies and Kiwis are not afraid to express how proud they are of their joe: It’s not uncommon to hear them loudly making digs at U.S. coffee, primarily because of their hatred of the drip stuff. And it doesn’t help that their café menus are loaded with code words seemingly put in place to stump tourists.

Flat White: There’s some debate between the two countries about the flat white’s origin (who invented it? was it really just a “failed cappuccino”?). But in both countries the little latte is one of the most popular ways to get a caffeine fix. It uses the same amount of espresso as a typical latte but with less milk, so the coffee-to-milk ratio is greater, allowing the subtle flavors of the espresso to shine.

Long Black: It’s essentially an Americano, but don’t be caught saying that. Instead of adding hot water to espresso, the espresso is added to the hot water, allowing it to retain its crema.


The coffee rules in Italy are pretty substantial, and you don’t want to be singled out for not following them. First off, don’t order a latte (you’ll get a cup of steamed milk), don’t order decaf and don’t even think about ordering to-go. Italians drink their espresso standing up at the bar and slowly enough to savor that sweet java. Oh, and definitely don’t order an Americano. It essentially translates to “tourist.”

Cappuccino: In Italy, it’s not what a cappuccino is (that would be espresso with steamed milk and milk foam) but when to drink one. Italians consider the milky beverage to be a breakfast drink, never taken in the afternoon or after a meal. If you want to order coffee with milk past 10 a.m., order a macchiato (espresso with only a dollop of foam).

Caffè Shakerato: For Italy’s hot summer months, a shakerato is a cold beverage made with espresso, a little simple syrup and a lot of ice, shaken until frothy and served often in a martini glass.

Caffè Corretto: Corretto translates to “correct” and is a shot of espresso with a shot of liquor, typically grappa.


So apparently you can go to Cuba now, although getting there is still not quite as simple as hopping on a plane. But when the time comes that you can book a trip with a click of a button on a travel app, you’re going to want to know how to order coffee. In the meantime, head to Miami, which is awake right now only because of its thriving Cuban coffee culture.

Cafecito: Also called café Cubano, the cafecito is Miami’s lifeblood. It’s strong and sweet Cuban coffee served in a very small cup (you don’t need much) and ordered for breakfast, lunch, after dinner or whenever you happen to pass a coffee counter.

Colada: You’ll need a few friends for this one. Meant for sharing and typically served after dinner, it’s a large portion of sweetened Cuban coffee served in a pitcher alongside a stack of tiny plastic cups that look like thimbles. Again, you need only a thimble-size sip for the potent battery-acid brew to perk you right up.

Café con Leche: Although the translation is simply “coffee with milk,” the drink is so much more. It’s a breakfast staple in Miami and consists of strong-brewed coffee that is sweetened while being brewed, then mixed into a 1:1 ratio of coffee to steamed milk.

Turkey/Middle East

Turkish coffeehouses have been around for almost five centuries, so you don’t want to just waltz in and order a Frappuccino. And though the method of preparing Turkish coffee is a long-standing tradition, most Turks drink cup after cup of black tea. Coffee is never consumed before breakfast or on an empty stomach, and is typically ordered only as an after-dinner drink.

Turkish Coffee: Ordered as Türk kahvesi, it is an intensely strong, unfiltered coffee made in a special cezve (Turkish coffeepot), brewed slowly over a low flame. It’s important to specify that you’re ordering Turkish coffee so as not to get confused with instant Nescafé, which has become widely popular due to its comparative ease of preparation. Also, if you’d like to sweeten your Turkish coffee, you must specify so in the beginning, along with the desired level of sweetness. There are three options: black/no sugar (sade or şekersiz), medium sweet (orta şekerli) or sweet (şekerli). And don’t even think about asking for milk or cream: Turkish coffee is strictly taken black.

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