The Complete Guide to Ordering Coffee in Chinese

Using "我要一杯咖啡"(Wǒ yào yībēi kāfēi, I would like a cup of coffee), to order a cup of coffee really isn't sufficient these days. What about the size? Would you like it flavoured? How about the kind of coffee bean? None of this is covered by "我要一杯咖啡". This post covers all the main things you need to know to properly order a cup of coffee in Chinese.

Core Sentence Structure

This is the general structure of how you would order coffee in Chinese. It looks complicated and long but keep in mind that you don't need to use all the elements, and it's likely that you have a favourite order that you can simply memorize for convenience.

Greeting + "I would like a " + size + iced + flavor + drink type + customizations + for here/to go + "thank you."

Greeting

First, start with a simple "你好"(Nǐ hǎo, hello). Do not greet a barista with "你好吗". If you say "你好吗" with a big smile, it might appear that you're flirting...poorly!

Drink Size

Coffee size might sound like one of the simplest aspects of ordering a coffee but thanks to Starbucks, it isn't.

Normal Sizing

Small
xiǎo bēi 小杯
Medium
zhōng bēi 中杯
Large
dà bēi 大杯

Starbucks Sizing

Short
xiǎo bēi 小杯
Tall
zhōng bēi 中杯
Grande
dà bēi 大杯 /biāozhǔn bēi标准杯
Venti
Chāodà bēi 超大杯

In order to increase revenue, the short size (小杯 xiǎo bēi) isn't usually displayed on the counter at Starbucks. Frequently what this means is that if you point at the smallest cup on the counter and say "我要一杯小杯咖啡"(Wǒ yào yībēi xiǎo bēi kāfēi, I want a small cup of coffee) , the nice barista will answer "对不起,这是中杯" (Duìbùqǐ, zhè shì zhōng bēi。Sorry, this is a tall.)

Describe Your Coffee

Instead of "咖啡" (Kāfēi,Coffee), use one of the more descriptive words below. If you would like your drink iced or flavoured you simply add "冰" (bīng, iced ) and your flavour before your coffee type. For example Iced mocha is "冰摩卡" (bīng mókǎ).

Coffee Types

Espresso
yì shì nóngsuō 意式浓缩
Double Espresso
shuāng fèn yì shì nóngsuō 双份意式浓缩
Americano
měishì kāfēi 美式咖啡
Black Coffee
hēi kāfēi 黑咖啡
Cappucino
kǎ bù qí nuò 卡布奇诺
Latté
ná tiě 拿铁
Mocha
mókǎ 摩卡
Macchiato
mǎ qí duǒ 玛奇朵

Flavors

Caramel
jiāo táng 焦糖
Vanilla
xiāngcǎo 香草
Hazelnut
zhēnzi 榛子
Chocolate
qiǎokèlì 巧克力
Mango
mángguǒ 芒果
Cherry
yīngtáo 樱桃
Peppermint
bòhé 薄荷
Cinnamon
ròuguì 肉桂

Customizations

These are some of the possible customizations you can have with your coffee. If your customization of choice isn't listed feel free to comment or tweet at us and we'll reply and update our list.

Whipped Cream
xiān nǎiyóu 鲜奶油
Milk
niúnǎi 牛奶
Skinny
dī zhī niúnǎi 低脂牛奶
Dry
duō nǎi pào, shào nǎi 多奶泡,少奶
Wet
shào nǎi pào, duō nǎi 少奶泡,多奶
Decaf
dī kāfēi yīn 低咖啡因

To Go?

Finally you can end up with "To go"(dǎbāo 打包) or "Here" (zài zhèlǐ yòng 在这里用)

Example

I would like a medium skinny latte with a double shot.

Nǐ hǎo, wǒ yào yībēi zhōng bēi ná tiě, yào shuāng fèn nóngsuō, dī zhī niúnǎi.

你好,我要一杯中杯拿铁,要双份浓缩,低脂牛奶。

We'd love to hear your order in the comments, and if you'd like we could correct your order.


Wang Rong (Emily) is a cofounder of GoEast and writes columns for the GoEast Blog on Chinese language learning, Chinese culture, and life in China as a language specialist. She holds a BA degree in Teaching Chinese as a Second Language and a MA in Comparative Literature. She has been teaching Chinese to foreigners since 2007 as a tutor and a professor in Universities.

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