Coffee in Chinese ☕️ A Complete Guide to Ordering a Cup of Joe in China
If you’ve been learning Chinese for a little while and you like to start off your day with a strong cup of joe, then you probably know the word for coffee in Chinese already.
Essential Vocabulary: 咖啡 Kāfēi
It’s quite an easy word to remember because the sounds are based on the English (and many other languages’) word for coffee.
So why then, can ordering a coffee in real life in China be a bit tricky?
Well the truth is that it’s down to our ability to create a huge variety of different kinds of coffee!
Ordering a coffee in China is pretty much exactly the same as ordering one back home, you just have to know the vocabulary for it. Which is where we come in… get ready to become a coffee-ordering expert!
DID YOU KNOW – you can order coffee in China without even queuing! Find out how below!
Types of Coffee in Chinese – The Basics
Firstly let’s go through the Chinese names for the different types of coffee you could order:
Latte in Chinese
Chinese Characters: 拿铁
Meaning: Based on the sound of the word “Latte”.
Cappuccino in Chinese
Chinese Characters: 卡布基诺
Meaning: Based on the sound of the word “Cappuccino”.
Americano in Chinese
Chinese Characters: 美式咖啡
Pinyin: Měishì Kāfēi
Meaning: 美 Měi is the same ‘mei’ from 美国 (America!). 式 shì means style. 咖啡 we should already know, so all together that’s an “American Style Coffee”.
Espresso in Chinese
Pinyin: Nóngsuō kāfēi
Meaning: 浓缩 Nóngsuō can sometimes be used to say espresso on its own. It means concentrated or strong – concentrated coffee, makes sense!
Mocha in Chinese
- Chinese Characters: 摩卡
- Pinyin: Mókǎ
- Meaning: This translation is based on the sound of the word “Mocha”
Flat White in Chinese
- Chinese Characters: 澳白
- Pinyin: Ào bái
- Meaning: 澳 refers to Australia, and 白 means white. So an Australian White Coffee!
Top tip: As flat whites are relatively fresh to make it over to China, there isn’t really one standardised name for them. For example: in Starbucks you’ll see it written as 馥芮白 (Fù ruì bái), at the Chinese coffee chain Luckin it’s 澳瑞白 (Ào ruì bái).
And there are more variations out there too. If you’re not sure just ask for an 澳白 and the barista should understand you!
Coffee Alternatives in Chinese
OK so this is a blog all about coffee in Chinese, and we’ve got your classic coffees covered, but what about your non-coffee-drinking friend who wants another type of beverage?
Well we thought we’d cover a couple of extra options just in case…
Hot Chocolate in Chinese
- Chinese Characters: 热巧克力
- Pinyin: Rè qiǎokèlì
- Meaning: 热 means hot and 巧克力 means chocolate – it’s based on the sound of the English word too. Can you tell? Simple!
Matcha Latte in Chinese
- Chinese Characters: 抹茶拿铁
- Pinyin: Mǒchá ná tiě
- Meaning: 抹茶 means “Matcha” which comes from Japanese. 茶 itself means tea so it’s quite easy to remember.
Top Tip: Make sure you include the words for latte 拿铁 when ordering your Matcha, as the Chinese name for Mocha sounds quite similar (抹茶 vs 摩卡) and you might end up with a chocolate-y coffee instead.
How to Order Coffee in Chinese
The first thing you’ll do when ordering your drink is specify which coffee you’d like, you should have the vocabulary to do that now.
But here’s an example sentence to help you along with the grammar:
我要一杯拿铁 (Wǒ yào yībēi ná tiě) – I’d like a latte.
Note: the measure word for coffee here is 杯 (bēi) meaning ‘cup’.
So if you’d like 2 coffees instead you’d say: 我要两杯拿铁 (Wǒ yào liǎng bēi ná tiě).
And if you have a mind blank in the moment and forget the measure word, no worries! You can always use 个 (Gè) and the barista will understand you just fine.
Now what else do you need to know how to say?
Coffee Sizes in Chinese
Well if you’re in a coffee chain, the barista will almost certainly ask you which size of coffee you’d like:
大杯还是小杯？ Dàbēi háishì xiǎobēi ? – Big cup or small cup?
Now this will vary from cafe to cafe. Some will have small and large options, others might include a medium option, and well Starbucks will just be different.
•••Notice how we used the 杯 (bēi) measure word again here?
Hot and Cold in Chinese
Another thing to take note of is the temperature of your beverage. Coming from the UK, the default coffee is always hot.
You say nothing if you want it hot, and specify if you’d like it iced instead.
So it always comes as a surprise to me when I’m asked if I’d like it 热的还是冰的? (Rè de háishì bīng de?) – Hot or iced?
But in a country with much warmer summertimes than sunny England, it’s a common enough.
Be prepared with your response.
Or better yet tell them when you order:
我要一杯冰拿铁 (Wǒ yào yībēi bīng ná tiě) – I’d like an iced latte.
Or alternatively if you’re still deciding when you’re ordering:
我要一杯拿铁 (Wǒ yào yībēi ná tiě) – I’d like a latte … pause for difficult decision then add… 冰的 bīngde – iced.
Drink In or Out
Another question you might be asked depending on your chosen venue is if you’re drinking in or taking away:
在这里用还是带走？(Zài zhèlǐ yòng háishì dài zǒu?)
To which you reply either:
在这里用 (Zài zhèlǐ yòng) – drink in (literally ‘use here’)
带走 (dài zǒu) – To go (literally ‘take go’)
Customising Your Coffee in Chinese
Milk in Chinese
Like a splash of milk with your Americano? Great! This is how you say it in Chinese:
加牛奶 (Jiā niúnǎi) – Literally 加 (jiā ) means add, and 牛奶 (niúnǎi) means milk. You can also just say 加奶 (jiā nǎi) – add milk.
Sugar in Chinese
Or perhaps you like your coffee a bit sweet. Here’s how you say add sugar:
加糖 (Jiātáng) – 加 we know, and 糖 (táng) is the Chinese word for sugar. It can also mean candy, but context should help here!
Add a Shot
Like your coffee with a bit of a kick? Why not ask to add an extra shot.
加浓 (Jiā nóng) – Remember the 浓 (nóng) from espresso?
This literally means to ‘add concentration/strength’. So for an Americano with an extra shot you’d say 加浓美式咖啡 (Jiā nóng měishì kāfēi).
Soy Milk in Chinese
For all those lactose intolerants and vegans out there. It’s important to be able to ask for a milk alternative for your latte. Soy milk is generally quite readily available in China, so it’s a good one to learn.
豆奶 (Dòunǎi) – Literally, bean (豆) milk (奶). But remember, soy milk that you find at Chinese breakfast is usually called 豆浆 (Dòujiāng).
Extra Coffee Flavourings
What are your favourite flavours to add to your coffee?
Here are some of the ones we see in China the most…
Caramel in Chinese
- Chinese Characters: 焦糖
- Pinyin: Jiāo táng
- Meaning: Literally “burnt sugar”!
Hazelnut in Chinese
- Chinese Characters: 榛果
- Pinyin: Zhēn guǒ
- Meaning: “Hazelnut fruit”
Vanilla in Chinese
Chinese Characters: 香草
Meaning: “Fragrant grass”
Hazelnut Soy Latte
Chinese Characters: 榛果豆奶拿铁
Pinyin: Zhēn guǒ dòunǎi ná tiě
Meaning: “Hazelnut Soy Latte”
Sentence: 我要一杯大杯榛果豆奶拿铁，带走 (Wǒ yào yībēi dàbēi zhēnguǒ dòunǎi nátiě, dàizǒu)
– I’d like like a large hazelnut soy latte to go.
Hopefully by now you’ll be a pro at ordering your next cup of 咖啡! If we’ve missed your favourite coffee from our list, let us know in the comments section below.
Good luck in all your future coffee-ordering adventures and let us know how you do!
If you like’d learning about coffee in Chinese, check out our blog on bubble tea in Taiwan!
Coffee in China – FAQ’s
How do you say coffee in Chinese?
咖啡 kāfēi. This is an easy one to remember because the sound is very similar to English.
How do you say tea in Chinese?
Tea in Chinese is 茶 chá.
How do I ask to add sugar to my coffee?
To add sugar to your coffee or tea you can simply say “加糖 (jiātáng)” which literally translate to add sugar.
Can I find western coffee brands in China?
Yes they are all over the bigger cities and even in the mid-tier cities you will still stumble across them easily enough. Starbucks is the most popular but there are many others also.
Luckin Coffee, has become particularly popular recently given the fact it offers great discounts and allows you to pre-order on your phone, therefore avoiding having to queue.
Is coffee culture big in China?
Coffee culture is very big in China. There are many Starbucks, Costa’s and the like in the bigger cities of China, but these are also spreading to mid/small cities also.
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