The Big Story of Little Starbucks Cups


During the holidays, Starbucks shelves are lined with an array of small cups from the Starbucks® Dot Collection. The story of these diminutive cups, known as the demitasse, began in 1906 at the Milan Fair, where two Italians unveiled the first commercial espresso machine. That was the world’s first “instant” coffee, using steam to brew an intense shot of caffé espresso (Italian for “pressed coffee”) in just seconds. By mid-century, thousands of espresso bars had popped up in Italy and beyond. Customers often stood at the bar shoulder-to-shoulder, sipping porcelain demitasse cups of espresso. 

Carroll said a perfectly pulled espresso begins like an avalanche of cloudy swirls of brown and tan, before settling into a dark brown color with the foamy crema on top. Inhale, and the rich coffee has a roasty, burnt-sugar aroma and a caramelly sweetness that holds its flavor for just a few seconds. A demitasse, which in French means “half-cup,” is just enough for a doppio (double) espresso.

“You have to really appreciate coffee to understand why it’s good,” said Carroll. “To have something concentrated that tastes good takes the right coffee and the right barista to create the perfect espresso experience.”

Even into the 21st century, sipping from a demitasse continues from the Italian tradition. Customers around the world still order a doppio espresso, or pour the shots of espresso over a dollop of foam for a doppio macchiato. And in Brazil, friends connect over little cups of coffee in an afternoon ritual called cafezinho, a doppio espresso with a hint of sugar, served with a bite-sized pastry on the side.

“Customers who love our espresso beverages may not know the great story behind our Espresso Roast,” Carroll said. “It represents the heart and soul of every single one of Starbucks espresso beverages.”

About Starbucks Dot Collection

Building on the popularity of 2014’s inaugural collection, Starbucks in-house designers created a collection of artistic variations of the iconic Starbucks green “Dot” logo. The Starbucks® Dot Collection offers a variety of drinkware, including stainless steel and ceramic tumblers, cold cups, and mugs. Each piece in the collection of nearly 70 designs is packaged in a red gift box with most items priced under $25. Find and purchase pieces from the collection online at Starbucks.com.

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Reimagining the Third Place: How Starbucks is evolving its store experience