I'm in Japan Now (hurrah) but can't order an atsui ko-hi-

Not sure what I’m doing wrong. At starbucks (or elsewhere) all the drinks come in either hot or iced. I confidently say "Atsui ko-hi- o onegaishimasu’ and the friendly face at the other end either stares at me, or suggests “iced?” Again, I say “Atsui” very clearly and loud enough to be heard without actually shouting.

And sure enough I get “Iced?” (or the blank stare).

I asked one barista (after we sorted it out by my saying “hot”) what to call a hot coffee in Japanese, and she said “Hotto no ko-hi-.” Should I be doing that? What happened to ‘atsui’? I’ll miss it.


Same thing that happened to 冷たい when you order アイス・コーヒー I suppose.

Or 黒い when you order ブラック・コーヒー


Stuff like this really validates my learning strategy of slacking off while Japanese slowly becomes English with a funny accent :smile:


Yeup. With coffee (and other popular drinks) it’s ホット or アイス don’t know why, but that’s the convention now. I know Japanese language tolerances are really tight, to the point that using the wrong word can completely change the meaning or result in a puzzled look, but it seems weird that they wouldn’t at least get the gist of what you were saying.

How are you pronouncing 熱い Atsui? Are you getting that good つ sound in there? I sometimes struggle with my つs sounding like すs so it might be something to look into.


How are you pronouncing “atsui”?

I found out the other day that the word for “thick” in Japanese is very similar: 厚い
It’s disturbingly similar to 暑い or 熱い :sweat_smile:

I would describe the difference here in pronunciation but I can’t even describe it lol.
Although I do wonder if they typically use loan words instead for describing coffee.

Have you gotten the question yet for “how many ice cubes would you like”? I once got asked this question and didn’t know what they were asking… it was literally how many cubes do you want. I asked for 1 and literally got 1 LOL.


It may help some people to listen to the two to compare.

(It doesn’t help me distinguish the two, though…)


To a certain extent “hotto” and “aisu” are trendy coffee words, but “atsui” isn’t the right description anyway. Atsui (and samui) are used to describe the sensation of weather, not foods or objects. That’s why the staff is confused.

If you go to a soba shop, they’ll ask if you want the soba atatakai or tsumetai. At a trendy coffee shop atatakai and tsumetai will probably sound like an out of date textbook, but they’ll understand.


あつい can be used for food and objects, it just gets written differently in that case. 暑い is for hot weather. 熱い is for hot physical objects.

あたたかい is of course plausible for coffee, but I’m not sure it would represent a temperature that most people expect hot coffee to be. It’s more like the temperature of can coffee from a vending machine. Warm, not hot.


Thanks for the correction. I looked up the words in more detail in a JP/JP dictionary now, but should have done that before I posted. (The vending machine coffee is plenty hot for me though. I can’t drink freshly brewed coffee right away.)


The difference is the pitch accent! :nerd_face:

Basically the Japanese version of stress, except solely based on pitch and can help distinguish certain words.


It doesn’t help that I fail miserably on Migaku’s lowest-level pitch accent training =P

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More than pitch accent or saying あつい instead of あたたかい , I think your main issue here is as @SteveDoesJapanese said, you should use katakana when ordering at a coffee shop. You want a ホットコーヒー. Strong chance the barista was mishearing your あつい as アイス and thought you wanted a cold drink. Coffee shops generally just tend to use a lot of katakana English. It’s just trendy I guess


This you?

I get it not being the standard, but there’s no way they couldn’t get to ホット from あつい.

Even in English, if you say, “can I get a medium cold coffee?” The most you’re gonna get is, “Oh, you mean a tall iced coffee? We also have blablabla.”


I actually don’t think that this is a problem, as the context should make it clear what is meant. Although I had encounters with my own native language in foreign countries which made it impossible (in the moment) to understand what the person meant.

(it was hotel staff trying to tell me that the served pike as fish tonight, but completly didn’t know how to pronunce “Hecht” in German. I really had to think about this for a while to get onto it)

So the blank stare could indicate just processing trying to figure out what the person meant. I don’t really know what could be wrong otherwise (besides the other person audibly not understanding what was spoken)

I love when I don’t know a word in Japanese so I’ll just throw it out there in katana and then everyone is like “oh, yeah I understand 100%”
soon everything will just be English in katana with Japanese word order and some したs on the verbs


Happens to everyone I am pretty sure. Don’t worry. You’ll get it down in a few weeks.

ホット コーヒー

Order that, and you should be good to go

I don’t have anything new to add – hotto ko-hi- (ホットコーヒー)is the correct way to ask – but it reminded me of when I first visited Japan many years ago, and wanted some hot water to make some tea. I went to the front lobby armed with my dictionary and asked for some アツいミズ over and over again.

(My dictionary didn’t include the word お湯 haha)


Well that sounds downright dangerous.


What does it actually say on the menu? For Starbucks their coffees come ホット / アイス, you need to say one of those. If the menu says atatakai, say that. I know everyone has already said this and you have gotten your answer but if in doubt, just read the menu, and order based on what it says. If it says
ミルク, don’t go off script and ask for 牛乳. The register buttons will match the menu and there will be no atsui button. It seems obvious that if that’s what someone is saying that the want hot but in my experience in Japan, if you don’t ask for exactly the right thing, they will not guess on your behalf. I’m surprised you ended up with iced and not just stuck there in a loop forever.

I just looked at the menu and I am totally going in for a パンプキン スパイス ラテ, ホット when I get to Fukuoka next week.