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Our coffee cup overflows with jargon

A number of people have complained to us that they cannot get a 'small' measure of coffee and are often only given the choice between a 'regular' or 'large'. Costa Coffee label their sizes as 'primo', 'medio' and 'assimo' - translating to small, medium and large. Coffee Republic and Caffe Nero use 'small' and 'regular', and so it goes on.

It's about image, competition and perhaps a little bit about what the food industry calls 'product sabotage' - when a company deliberately drives customers towards certain products at the cost of not promoting other, possibly better, options.

BBC website article on 'product sabotage' in two leading coffe shop chains

We would prefer it if the terms 'small, medium and large' were used, as they are more widely understood, but the coffee-shop chains seem intent on the American word 'regular' which they say means 'standard'.

Having contacted a number of the High Street names, we suggested they at least offer some consistency in their terms, or clear information about the actual amount in each cup size.

Starbucks use 'tall', 'grande', and 'venti'. We have heard that there is also a 'short', but it isn't promoted. We have learnt that 'venti' is Italian for 20 fluid ounces, but 'venti' doesn't mean large but is generally known in the US as being more than a 'grande'. 'Tall' is large, but 'grande' is Spanish for large. The US measurement for 'regular is between 6 to 8 fluid ounces and 'small' is generally measured at 4 to 5 fluid ounces. The joys of global business!

But if you ask for a small in Starbucks you will probably get, and have to pay for, a 'regular', unless of course, you know about the secret cappuccino.

Confused? We were - perhaps we need to shake a few beans and make sure that coffee drinkers know just what they are paying for. We don't want you driven to the point of abusive language in the absence of your daily bagel and caffeine intake, or you might end up sharing a cup with the local constabulary, like the English professor in New York, Linda Rosenthal, whose recent objection to using Starbucks' language made international news.

But please tell us what you think - have we had enough of the cosmopolitan lifestyle? Is it time to bring back the plain English cafe?

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