How To Order Coffee Around The World Like a Local

Our travel plans may be on hold just at the moment, but this hasn’t stopped us dreaming of when we can next get away – and we are sure you’ll be the same.

If you’re a coffee fan, you won’t be doing without the beverage just because you’ve not got your local coffee shop or prized De’Longhi machine to hand. But how do you order a coffee wherever you’re going?

Whether it be wondering what the locals drink, or wondering how you ask the waiter/barista for your coffee, we have a complete guide on the top destinations below.

How To Order Coffee In 8 Languages

Spain

The most visited destination in the world when it comes to Brits Abroad, Spain is a summer holiday staple.

The black espresso is the most popular method, with baristas often adding milk to this as a base. Sugar is rarely added – it is common to receive some so you can add it yourself. In Spain, the coffee usually tastes slightly more bitter than what you’re used to, due to Torrefacto. This is the practice of adding sugar to coffee beans during the roasting process.

Coffee shops usually have this at a 70/30 or 80/20 mix (with the smaller portion Torrefacto). In some supermarkets, it can actually be 50/50. Breakfast is the smallest meal of the day, so it is popular to have a coffee with something sweet.

How To Order:

Me gustaria un “cafe”, por favor

  • Black espresso – Café solo
  • Espresso with equal parts milk – Café con Leche
  • Coffee with sweet condensed milk – Café Bombón
  • Warm milk with a splash of coffee – Manchada

Italy

The home of espresso and most other coffees, too. Luckily, this means that most of the terms are actually naturally Italian, such as Ristretto.

In Italy, certain drinks are usually consumed at rigid times of the day. Cappuccinos are ‘heavy’ with milk, usually drunk for breakfast pre-11am. The macchiato is an afternoon pick-me-up, and the espresso is a post-dinner serving.

If you ask for just a caffè, you will get an espresso in return, so it is worth learning the variations before you order. Similarly if ordering a ‘latte’, this is just a glass of milk.

Italians traditionally drink their coffee quickly when stood at the bar as opposed to lingering, although you will be able to find seating in the more touristy areas. This is why they are served lukewarm as opposed to hot.

How To Order:

Un “caffè” per favore

  • Black espresso – Caffè normale
  • Long coffee (double water of espresso) – Caffè lungo
  • Espresso stained with milk – Caffè macchiato
  • Shorter espresso – Caffè ristretto

France

Unlike some other languages which translate different coffees into ‘a coffee in this format’, in French, every coffee usually has its own name.

However, a lot of coffees are self-explanatory. Cappuccinos are still cappuccinos, and espresso can be called an ‘expresso’. The normal drink is an espresso, so asking for a standard coffee will get you this.

Un café is a small cup of black coffee, and un déca is a decaffeinated coffee. Un café au lait is ‘coffee with milk’ traditionally, but is usually just used at home in an informal setting for coffee served in large cups which croissants and other breakfast items can be dipped into.

Breakfast is traditionally the only meal at which coffee is consumed with milk and with food

How To Order:

Je vais prendre “un cafe” s’il vous plaît

  • Black espresso – Un café
  • Long black espresso – Un américain
  • Espresso with a little milk – Un noisette
  • Coffee with milk or cream – Un café crème

Portugal

While you may be able to guess what other coffees are in other languages, or have a good go at winging it, Brazilian is a bit more difficult and the words can make no sense to an English speaker. But the good news is that there is often a bit more choice compared to the likes of Italy and France, especially when it comes to milk-based coffee.

As with most of the other languages on here, the good news is that a simple café is a black espresso. It is usually ordered on quick work breaks or after meals though, with milky coffee the norm in the mornings.

Rather than serving a weakened espresso which has been topped up with extra water, it is common to serve a diluted one instead, where water has passed through the beans once before. 

How To Order:

Um/Uma…por favor

  • Black espresso – Café
  • Espresso with a splash of milk – Café pingado
  • Diluted espresso – Carioca
  • Espresso with ⅔ milk – Galão
  • Half coffee, half milk – Meia de leite
  • Long black coffee – Abatanado

USA

The overall language is obviously the same as here in the UK which is good news. 

Although if you’re a fan of strong espressos, the norm in America is longer drip-style filter coffees. Americano coffee can be watery compared to espressos and our usual medium coffees, and terms such as ‘flat white’ are sometimes not recognised – it is a triple short no-foam latte, thank you very much.

Strengths are usually defined by ‘shots’ – think like your Starbucks order. It is also common to use syrups, sugars and other additions as opposed to drinking it straight black.

You’re probably not going to get coffee which is as good as you would in a small Italian coffee house or bar. Chains are also more common, as opposed to smaller bars, so what is on offer is pretty clear via menus (and what you’d order here in a chain coffee shop too).

However, if you want to seek out a speciality coffee, more independent shops are popping up – just stay out of the tourist areas.

How To Order:

Please could I have…

  • An espresso
  • A black coffee
  • Coffee with a splash of milk
  • One part espresso, one part drip coffee – Cafe tobio
  • Espresso shot, one part drip coffee – Red Eye

Greece

We have a little guide on Greek coffee here because it can be a bit of a minefield to anybody not used to having so much choice. And, it is a lifestyle, not just a beverage.

In Greece, coffee is meant to be drunk slowly and it isn’t uncommon to take a few hours to drink one small coffee. The most popular finds in a Greek café are Greek coffee, frappé, espresso and cappuccino (hot or cold), or filter coffee which is called French coffee. You can also find a Nescafé anywhere.

Greek coffee is essentially incredibly strong, looking like an espresso but sipped slowly rather than shot. You order it sketo (no sugar), metrio (medium sweet) or glyko (sweet). Cold coffee is where Greek caffeine really shines, however.

How To Order:

  • A Greek coffee – enan eliniko
  • Double Greek coffee – enan eliniko diplo
  • A frappe sweet/medium/plain/with milk/with no milk – enan frape gliko/metrio/sketo/me gala/horis gala
  • An espresso/cappuccino – enan espresso/cappuccino
  • A double espresso – ena diplo espresso
  • A filter coffee – enan kafe filtrou

Australia/New Zealand

With immigration came some great coffee. And Australia, in particular, prides itself on quality.

The latte is a common order. But the flat white is seen as an Australian speciality. In general, however, you will find most of your regular orders here, the same as you would in the UK.

This includes the use of milk such as soy, or ‘skinny’ variations.

How To Order:

Please could I have…

  • A latte
  • A flat white
  • An espresso
  • A skinny macchiato
  • A coffee with soy milk
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