What's The Deal With Starbucks' Cup Sizes?

Photographed by Tayler Smith.

Small, medium, and large; these are our go-to orders just about anywhere when purchasing grub-to-go, especially beverages. That is anywhere but at one specific global coffee mecca — yep, we’re looking at you Starbucks.

Throughout the decades, this java giant has gone against the S/M/L grain and famously offered its brews in Short (8 oz), Tall (12 oz), Grande (16 oz), and Venti (20 oz) sizing. There was even the creation of an off-menu size known as Trenta (31 oz). (Trenta can only be ordered for specific cold beverage offerings.) According to a press representative for the company, this special sizing was first introduced back in 1986 — starting with Short, Tall, and Grande. (The Venti hot cup was wasn't offered until the early 1990s.) But because the very first Starbucks location opened its doors in 1971 (a whopping 46 years ago), the stylistic sizing choice was not an immediate staple. In fact, the Italian-inspired names followed suit over a decade later. So where, or who, exactly did this idea come from?

The who behind your "Grande" half-caff latte happens to be none other than Howard Schultz, the chairman and CEO of Sbux. And the where? Bella Italia. Schultz took a trip to the country of pasta, wine, and espresso back in 1983 and was so inspired by the community coffee house culture that he brought a little piece of it back with him stateside: the sizing names and the general vibes. According to the company's website, Shultz wanted Starbucks to "...set out to be a different kind of company. One that not only celebrated coffee and the rich tradition, but that also brought a feeling of connection." And whether or not ordering up a "Venti" instead of a large makes us feel more connected and cultured, we can definitely agree that it's an association that is distinctly Starbucks.