11 Terms from the Coffee Shop

11 terms you might run into at the cafe
coffee terms

Definition - a beverage made by percolation, infusion, or decoction from the roasted and ground seeds of a coffee plant

Coffee, in both name and origin, can be traced back to Arabia. The drink has existed in Arabia since the 15th century, and the name comes from the Arabic qahwa. There are over two dozen species of coffee, with two of them (arabica and robusta) supplying the great majority of the beans ingested by coffee drinkers. Among those who care about such matters, arabica is viewed as the superior bean.

We are not informed whether the Prussians are as much addicted to the use of coffee as they are to beer-drinking and smoking, but from what we know of their countrymen, we judge they are.
The New York Times, 10 Oct. 1870

coffee terms espresso photo

Definition - coffee brewed by forcing steam or hot water through finely ground darkly roasted coffee beans

Some people like to spend their time arguing about whether expresso is a proper variant of espresso, or if it is merely the coordinated effort of millions of people, all intentionally mispronouncing a word in order to annoy other people. We provide entries for both forms, and if you would like more explanation as to why we do this you may read it here. Those who do not want to read more about the expresso/espresso contretemps now have more time to spend in drinking some of this lovely dark beverage.

After a few weeks under the cloudless skies of Rome, where the bright January sunshine gilds the yellow marble palaces and bestows its genial warmth upon the crowds that circulate though the Corso to the Piazza Colonna and the Piazza del Popolo, or sitting in the open in front of the cafés sipping their coffee espresso or their glass of vermuth, the icy estrangement melts.
The Living Age (Boston, MA), 28 Jun. 1919

coffee terms cappuccino photo

Definition - espresso coffee topped with frothed hot milk or cream and often flavored with cinnamon

The lofty cappuccino (note the doubled p and c) entered the English language near the end of the 19th century. The word comes from the beverage’s supposed resemblance to the color of the habit worn by the Capuchin (note the single p and c) monks; a Capuchin is “a member of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin forming since 1529 an austere branch of the first order of St. Francis of Assisi engaged in missionary work and preaching.” The name Capuchin itself may be traced to the Old Italian word cappuccino (back to doubling the p and c), meaning “from his cowl.”

The man in the hat? That’s Dominic Parisi preparing your order of the cappuccino.
New York Herald Tribune , 21 Jul. 1951

coffee terms caffe latte photo

Definition - espresso mixed with hot or steamed milk

Another 19th century addition to our lexicon of coffee drinks, the caffe latte (often now referred to as a latte) comes from the Italian caffelatte, which is short for caffè e latte (“coffee and milk”). We agree that this word history lacks some of the whimsy of the cappuccino, and understand if this causes you to rethink your choice of which one to imbibe.

We breakfast in our room on “Caffe latte” and rolls; we lunch at a “Trattoria” on white bread, ripe figs and red wine.
Pittsburgh Dispatch (Pittsburgh, PA), 18 Jan. 1891

coffee terms cafe americano photo

Definition - coffee consisting of espresso diluted with hot water

The café Americano (also referred to simply as an Americano) was borrowed from either the Spanish (café americano) or the Italian (caffè americano). The literal meaning of this term in either language is simply "American coffee."

When you order coffee in a restaurant, you must tell the waiter whether you want the weak “cafe Americano,” or the strong, black “cafe Puertorriqueno.”
Evening Star (Washington, DC), 11 Apr. 1943

coffee terms mocha photo

Definition - a superior Arabian coffee consisting of small green or yellowish beans

Mocha comes from the city in Yemen, of the same name. A notice in a May 1733 issue of The Grub-Street Journal informs readers that “The Houghton from Mocha has brought 822,400 l. of coffee.” In addition to referring to a specifically Arabian coffee mocha may be used generally with the meaning “a coffee of superior quality,” but you're most often likely to encounter it as "a flavoring made of a strong coffee infusion or of a mixture of cocoa or chocolate with coffee."

Nothing remained but to slip on my dressing-gown, and arm myself for the encounter with the dreadful sheet, by a strong cup of Mocha coffee, and a French roll.
The New Monthly Magazine (London, Eng.), Jan. 1821

coffee terms cafe photo

Definition - a usually small and informal establishment serving various refreshments (such as coffee)

By this point in this list you’ve likely realized that cafe, the word for a dining establishment, comes from a word for coffee (in this case from the French café). Cafe (and caffe) is the initial portion of many types of coffee drinks, and may also modify other, non-drinkable words: café society (“society of persons who are regular patrons of fashionable cafés”), café chantant (“cabaret”), and cafe curtain (“a plain straight-hanging curtain usually hung in pairs on a pole by loops or rings and used to cover the lower part of a window or door”).

Oysters were never better than they are this year. The Cafes serve them on the half shell, steamed, roasted, broiled, single fried, &c. A visit to the Cafes will convince you of their superiority.
The Washington Post, 22 Oct. 1899

coffee terms coffeehouse photo

Definition - an establishment that sells coffee and usually other refreshments and that commonly serves as an informal club for its regular customers

Coffee-drinking became popular in Europe in the 17th century, and the word for the place where one does such a thing dates back to the very beginning of that century. We have been making the words coffee and house into a compound for over 400 years now.

I protest, you have spoke so much that I'm confounded, I'm afraid there's too much Truth in what you've said, and for my own part I'll stand it no longer, I'll go directly to the Coffee-house this Minute, and dispose of my whole Parcel, that I may sleep quietly, and be Excused in my attendance at Westminster on Friday, So farewell for One Hour or Two, I'll give you an Account what I have done when I return.
— Anon. A dialogue between two members of the new and old East-India companies, 1600

coffee terms coffee bar photo

Definition - an establishment or counter where coffee and usually light refreshments are served

Although the coffeehouse has been with us since the beginning of the 17th century, the coffee bar is a relative newcomer, existing in English since the middle of the 19th century. Related to the bar portion of coffee bar is the barista (“a person who makes and serves coffee (such as espresso) to the public”). This word, although Italian in origin, is based on the English bar (“a counter at which food or especially alcoholic beverages are served”).

A large coffee house, called the “people’s Hotel,” has just been opened at Harrogate. It has been erected by a limited liability company, and is situated in Albert-street. It consists of coffee bar, reading and smoke rooms, library, &c., with a large room for public meeting and entertainments on the second floor.
British architect (London, Eng.), 27 Dec. 1878

The barista is most often a young man who, in immaculate white, goes through the automatic motions and has the quick reactions of a professional driver.
— Paul Hoffman, The New York Times, 7 Aug. 1983

coffee terms kaffeeklatsch

Definition - an informal social gathering for coffee and conversation

The German language lags somewhat behind French and Italian in terms of the number of coffee-related words it has bequeathed to English, but when it does provide a word it is a very good one. Kaffeeklatsch (which may also be found in somewhat anglicized form, coffee klatch) comes from the German words for coffee (kaffee) and gossip (klatsch). Another word from the German kaffee that has made its way into English (somewhat more obscure than kaffeeklatsch) is caffeol. This is defined as “a fragrant oil produced by roasting coffee,” or “the smell that reactivates our brains in the morning.”

Society Gossip — Something About the Kaffeeklatsch — A Piggy at a Party—The Potato in Fashionable Society
— (headline) Detroit Free Press, 7 Dec. 1879

You see that Coffee owes its aroma and consequently its flavor to Caffeol—it is the thing you drink Coffee for, but it has a subtle, delicate deliciousness easily dispelled, or almost destroyed by impurities.
Boston Daily Globe, 26 Jul. 1908

coffee terms joe java photo

Definition - coffee

Considering that our love affair with coffee has been ongoing for hundreds of years, there are surprisingly few slang or informal terms for this beverage (compared to other ingestibles, such as liquor or marijuana). Joe and java are two of them; the former possibly is an alteration of the latter, and the latter comes from the name of the island where coffee is grown.

The canteen is doing a rushing business these days. A lunch menu has been installed and it is just at odd times that one as able to edge near the counter to sing out for a "Wimpy" and a cup of “Joe.”
Leatherneck (Quantico, VA), Apr. 1936

Nevertheless, it is strictly true, that not a few of those little paragraphs which you peruse so leisurely in the morning, over a rich cup of Java, or after dinner, with a fragrant Havana in your mouth … are the offspring of the lone midnight hour!
Cincinnati Mirror (Cincinnati, OH), 27 Feb 1836