cof·fee name

Coffeename cof·fee name (noun): An alias given when ordering a drink at a coffee shop when one's real name has proven too difficult for the barista to pronounce and/or transcribe on a coffee cup.

See also: nom de ca·fé.

NPR's Michele Norris recently interviewed Shefali Kulkarni, a Starbucks patron who goes by the coffee name "Sheila":

Shefali Kulkarni is the name of my next guest. But at Starbucks, she's known as Sheila. You see, Sheila is her fake coffee name, and by that, I mean, the name she gives the barista at Starbucks when she orders her coffee and waits for someone to call her name when it's ready.

Kulkarni, who blogged for the Village Voice about her coffee name, told NPR about the origins of her alias:

It was about five months ago. I was in line at Starbucks and they asked for my name. And spelling Shefali just took forever, and I think at one point somebody in the line - in the back of the line was saying, hurry up, like, let's go. And it's when it dawned on me. I'm like, you know what? Forget this. I'm just going to use a fake name. I can't take this anymore. So, next time I ordered coffee, first thing that came to mind was Sheila.

...I just assumed I was the only one, but - I was at Starbucks maybe a month ago and I noticed that all the coffee drinks on the barista table, they definitely had all these American names like Tom and Sue and Joe, and I noticed the people that were waiting for the drinks didn't really - I mean, maybe this is totally racial profiling.

The Urban Dictionary offers the following definition its entry for :

A coffee name is given to the barristo/barrista when you order your coffee drink - you need a coffee name if your name is difficult to pronounce, or if your name is unusual. A coffee name expedites your order.

And, oddly enough, there's even a website,, the "Hot or Not" of coffee names, where people can upload and rate cups inscribed with their preferred coffee names.

Image: "gülce's breakfast: stolen identity" (flickr/Matt Hintsa).


haha this made me laugh. my bro has to do this all the time. indian names do not go down all that well at coffee shops.



I totally do that! Ikay, I do it, but not all the time. Sometimes I like to torture the order-takers and the barristo with my difficult to pronounce name.


Coffee names provide a little bit of entertainment to the average everyday morning. Especially for those of us who like to get creative with names..I pride myself on coming up with interesting and unique titles for things. For instance, when I was on my high school basketball team, I was the designated "play caller" which meant I got to come up with a different name for every different play we ran. One of the favorites was "kitten" ( I might add that it is still used to this day).
I love coffee houses, from the classic Starbucks to the authentic mom&pop corner shop, and I will continue to use amusing coffee names :).


This was an interesting article to read and relate to because I too have a coffee name. I use this name when ordering Bagels from Eienstein's. Ordering smoothies from Jamba Juice. My coffee name can be used at any franchise. I use it because I'm sick of hearing my name missed pronounced. So I shortened my name from 5 letters to my simple 3 letter 1 syllable nickname.


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