It all starts at the founder's first coffee shop
You may have never heard of Il Giornale, but it was the mini-coffee chain Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, started in 1986. This was a year before he bought a tiny brand called Starbucks and turned it into a global juggernaut.
When it first opened, Il Giornale had just three sizes, according to a Starbucks spokesperson: short, tall, and grande. (The much larger venti size was introduced at a later point.) This is all thanks to a fateful trip Schultz took to Italy in 1983.
During this trip, Schultz became "captivated with Italian coffee bars and the romance of the coffee experience," the Starbucks website noted. In her book Grande Expectations, author Karen Blumenthal writes that "since the stores were designed around the concept of Italian coffee bars, [Schultz] wanted distinctive names" for the cups that would reflect that.
She adds that Schultz also "wanted to convey a different image, something far more exotic than a simple cup of joe." So he used cups in a variety of sizes (much more rare at the time), and gave them atypical names (with a couple of words in Italian) to make them more distinct.
The use of Italian on the menu didn't just stop at cup sizes.There were also menu items with words like doppio, macchiato, and misto on the Il Giornale menu, Blumenthal added. These are also all phrases that can be found on the current Starbucks menu. But what about "short" and "tall," two very English words?