Ordering A New York Coffee

Ordering Coffee in NYC the RIGHT Way

In 1892, Ellis Island flung open its proverbial doors to welcome immigrants to the New World and thus began the fascination with New York City. From its architecture to its history, there is no shortage of stories spilling from the streets of the city that never sleeps. An undoubtedly special place, New York City has such a strong character of its own. Not only is it the backdrop to more modern stories, songs, and movies than any other city, NYC is often a main character, with her physical characteristics, personality, and mood swings on full display. 

Visitors and newcomers alike are nearly obsessed with the vibe of the city and ask themselves the ultimate question: How can I be a real New Yorker? By mimicking fashion, the accent, and the brisk pace, everyone hopes to embody the spirit of the city, but the devil is in the details and it’s really quite simple. If you step out of the vacation bubble and mimic the spirit of the city that isn’t on TV, you may have a chance. A day in the life of a “real” New Yorker is similar to anywhere else - including having a typical cup of New York coffee on your way into work.

What Is A New York Coffee?

Starting your day like a New Yorker means ordering a New York coffee. Never mind wandering into an overpriced national chain where they write down your name and charge you eight bucks for a drink that’s 40% sugar. In the City, there are tons of bodegas, street carts, diners, and mom n’ pop shops that really make up the city’s economy and every single one of them makes the same kind of coffee. It’s kind of phenomenal, really. And, if you go often enough, they may never learn your name, but they know who you are and what your order is, and there’s a special kind of magic in that.

Etiquette When Ordering Coffee in New York City

NYC is a fast-paced city. Everyone is on the go and no one has time for niceties. The city has a rep for its rude people, but that isn’t really true. People just don’t make time for things that are unimportant. As long as you are considerate and move along, no one has a problem and the same goes for ordering New York coffee. You could walk in and announce your large dirty soy with a low fat non-sweet whatever, but honestly, no one cares. People are busy, so the easiest way to get your liquid pick-me-up is to just order aregular coffee and keep it moving.

What Is A Regular Coffee In NYC?

In New York, a regular coffee is just that. It’s not fancy, and everyone knows what it is. It’s a short coffee with milk and two sugars. The theories behind what makes this particular beverage “the regular” vary, but it’s understood to be the default coffee. Why? Because it’s fast to order and easy to make.

Of course, there are variations because people are different and if you don’t want milk or sugar, then order it “plain”. A plain cup of New York coffee translates to black coffee. If you are more particular about your cup of joe, you can always make your order beige (a little more milk) or even light and sweet, which is a crowd favorite. Light and sweet simply means a lot of milk and sugar. Fun fact: you can order your tea light and sweet as well. Another variation that’s quite popular is to order your New York coffee regular with half and half. That means instead of milk, it’s half milk and half cream, for a smoother, richer flavor.

The Best Way to Order a New York Coffee and Bagel 

New York coffee orders are frequently accompanied by a breakfast order, in which case, you will say what bread or sandwich you want, whether you want it toasted or not, and what you want on it. Then you add your coffee.

“Can I get an everything bagel, toasted with butter and jelly, and a coffee light and sweet?”

See how quick that is? Easy to say, ring up, and make. It’s also easy to call out when your order is ready.

Another reason why New York coffee is ordered this way is because most New Yorkers don’t want to stand around a tiny little island sprinkling and stirring. Remember, everyone is busy all the time. The logic here is, if the person is making your coffee, then they should make it completely. Why share the burden? If they kinda make it, and you kinda make it, that makes it inefficient for everyone. Remember the part about being considerate?  Efficiency is a huge part of that. 

Ordering Coffee in New York with Alternative Milks

While the fancier coffee shops have proper baristas that can certainly make your world-class macchiatos and affogatos, the diners, bodegas, and street carts typically don’t have the equipment or the expertise for such beverages, even if they do have a fancy machine that allows them to press a button, and therefore add it to the menu. That said, New York coffee is evolved enough to accommodate modern preferences. As the city’s culture and many of its people move away from drinking cow's milk in favor of alternative milk, most shops do offer the option of soy and almond milk. Oat milk is fairly recent, and while less likely to be available as an option depending on the neighborhood, it’s starting to get some attention, especially since it’s cheap enough to make. 

Being a New Yorker is easy, even if you only take on the role for a day. Remember to match pace when walking on the sidewalk, never abruptly stop or look up, be mindful of the people around you, and get a New York coffee from the bodega, light and sweet. And ALWAYS pay your respects to the manager – the bodega cat.