On the Menu: A Coffee and Tea Lexicon

Are you faced with caffeinated confusion when perusing the menus at coffee shops and tea bars? Do you drown in terminology that seems to be an odd mixture of some unknown foreign language and what space aliens probably speak? Have you read articles about coffee and tea and come away with the feeling you know less than when you started? The following list will probably help. It explains many of those mysterious terms that appear on hot beverage menus, on packages of coffee and tea, and on documentaries about the tea and coffee industry.

Coffee and tea vocabulary

Black Tea – Strong drink with a modest amount of caffeine. The most popular tea in the world.

White Tea – A light flavor and very little caffeine makes this drink a favorite for the coffee-averse. This is the least processed kind of tea.

Green Tea – Low in caffeine, high in anti-oxidants, and with a grassy, natural flavor. Green tea is a very healthful drink.

Matcha Tea – A sub-category of green tea, matcha is grown in a special way (without sunlight) during the last couple weeks before it is harvested.

Indian Chai Tea – A spicy tea usually served with cream, milk or honey, or all three.

Fruit-flavored Tea – There are hundreds of flavors, with the most common being lemon, raspberry, and orange.

Oolong/Barley Tea – A traditional Chinese tea.

Baltimore – a coffee drink that is half-caffeinated and half decaffeinated. Usually called “half caf.”

Black Eye – a double shot of espresso is added to this dripped coffee drink.

Black Tie – This is iced tea with some unique ingredients, like orange blossom water, black tea, tamarind, star anise, milk, sugar and a double espresso shot.

Café Breve – You’ll see foam on top of this coffee drink that contains varying amounts of steamed half-and-half.

Cafe Americano – A mixture of espresso and hot water. It’s about as strong as coffee but has its own flavor.

Café Au Lait – The French came up with this one. It’s equal parts scalded milk and strong coffee or espresso.

Café Bombón – Condensed milk mixed with an equal part of espresso.

Café Latte – Look for the foam! It’s two parts steamed milk and one part espresso.

Café Medici – Whipped cream tops a double espresso shot, with a surprise under-layer of chocolate syrup and either a lemon or orange peel.

Café Mélange – Central Europeans love this one. It is simply strong black coffee with whipped cream on top.

Café Miel – Miel means “honey” in Spanish. This delicious concoction has its namesake honey, cinnamon, espresso and steamed milk. It’s a miel in itself.

Coffee Milk – This was invented in Providence, Rhode Island, in the U.S. It’s coffee syrup added to milk. A very large burst of coffee flavor from the smallest of the 50 states.

Café Mocha – A variant of cafe latte, but with chocolate syrup thrown into the mix. Beware cheaper versions that use powdered chocolate.

Café Zorro – For purists. One part hot water, one part double espresso.

Ca phe sua da – This is about 3 parts to one, black coffee and condensed sweetened milk. Pour it all over ice and you have this Vietnamese favorite. Some places call it cafe sua da, or sometimes V-caf.

Cappuccino – A first cousin of cafe latte, but with less steamed milk and more foam.

Chai Latte – Same thing as cafe latte but with concentrated spiced tea instead of espresso.

Chocolate Dalmatian – Chocolate and java chips top a white chocolate mocha.

Cinnamon Spice Mocha – Foam and cinnamon powder on top, cinnamon syrup mixed with mocha underneath. A work of art.

Cortado – Espresso with a portion of warm milk.

Decaf – Any hot beverage made with either decaffeinated coffee or tea.

Doppio – A double shot of espresso.

Eggnog Latte – Steamed milk and eggnog and a little nutmeg with espresso. Happy whatever!

Eiskaffee – Vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, sweetener, milk and cold coffee. A German original, like Wagner and Goethe.

Espresso Romano – A little sugar, a lemon rind, and a shot of espresso.

Flat White – Very similar to lattes and cappuccinos, this one has no foam and may contain varying amounts of espresso.

Galão – A gift from the Portuguese to the rest of the world. Three parts foamed milk, one part coffee.

Guillermo – Take two slices of lime, a bit of ice and a tiny amount of milk if you choose, then cover it all with two shots of espresso (one for the less daring).

Greek Frappe – A summer favorite in Greece. They use instant spray-dried coffee and cover it with foam.

Green Eye – A triple shot of espresso combined with dripped coffee. We suspect this has an alternate use as rocket fuel. Also called Triple Death, for obvious reasons.

Indian Filter Coffee – Dark coffee and chicory. Some places call it Kappi or Madras Coffee.

Instant Coffee – Dehydrated coffee beans are powdered and then mixed with water. Served in jails and… that’s about it.

Irish Coffee – A little sugar, some cream, whiskey, and as much coffee as needed to fool the police. This beverage is featured in more jokes than any other drink, but many people swear by it. Some even swear while they’re drinking it! Begorrah!

Kopi Susu – Black, unfiltered coffee combined with sweet condened milk, then allowed to cool. The grounds end up on the bottom of the cup, so don’t drink that last portion.

Liqueur Coffee – Another powerhouse. Typically, 25 ml of liqueur is added to a glass along with a bit of cane sugar. Add coffee to almost the top of the glass and some whipped cream, and that’s it! Hide the car keys.

Macchiato – Espresso with a little bit of foamed milk.

Mary Turner – Coffee, milk, and three sweeteners.

Mazagran – A Portugal original. Strong coffee served in a big glass with ice and lemon, maybe some sugar. Brave souls add rum. Children add water. Serious contestants use espresso instead of coffee.

Red Eye – A shot of espresso and dripped coffee, hence the name. Also known as “final-exam helper.”

Red Tie – Iced tea with orange blossom water, black tea, tamarind, star anise, milk, sugar and a single espresso shot.

Red Tux – White chocolate mocha, regular mocha and raspberry flavoring.

Regular Coffee – As opposed to “black,” this one has cream and sugar.

Ristretto – A quick pull on the hand press brings more flavor and less caffeine to this espresso.

Skinny Latte – Non-fat steamed milk instead of the regular stuff, mixed with espresso.

Soy Latte – Two parts steamed soy milk, one part espresso. Made famous in the Train song, Drops of Jupiter.

Turkish Coffee – Ground, powdered coffee beans dissolved in hot water. A waker-upper if there ever was one.

Vienna Coffee – Place two shots of espresso in a regular-sized cup, put in lots of whipped cream. Stir the whipped cream into the coffee. No milk or sugar needed, obviously. A caffeine-sugar carnival.

White Chocolate Mocha – Three great ingredients meet: white chocolate syrup, espresso, and steamed milk.

White Coffee – A special coffee roasted in palm-oil and served with condensed milk. Usually served on ice.

Yuanyang – In Hong Kong they call it the Ying Yong. Black tea and condensed milk is mixed with coffee.

Zebra Mocha – A red tux without the raspberry flavoring.

Whether your pleasure is matcha tea or another variety, the Tea Association of the U.S.A. website probably has the exact terminology that applies. Powdered Japanese green tea that is part of traditional tea ceremony is the formal definition of matcha tea. However, there is no accepted definition for “teaffee,” a trendy drink enjoyed by those who can’t decide whether they want tea or coffee. (See below for a complete teaffee recipe). Our official tasting team found teaffee to be surprisingly delicious. It definitely belongs in the “don’t knock it till you’ve tried it” category.


To make 32 ounces of teaffee, you’ll need that much water, 1 tablespoon of coffee, and 3 teabags (black tea works best in this recipe).

Put about 12 ounces of the water in your coffee maker, using the single tablespoon of coffee. While the coffee is brewing, boil the 20 ounces of water you have left and pour it into a large bowl that contains the tea bags. Let the hot tea steep for about 4-6 minutes. When everything is done, mix the coffee and tea, let it cool in the frig for a while, then serve it over ice. The stuff is showing up in the trendier clubs on the West Coast of the U.S., as well as in uber-hip Arizona and New Mexico college hangouts.

Filed under Lifestyle, Matcha

Yuki thinks simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. His most significant accomplishment is learning how to sit with a good cup of tea and listen. When not online, Yuki talks with all things wild and free. He is a blogger and a matcha lover.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *