Month: June 2014

What should I order at Starbucks?

This has to be the #1 question I've been asked over the years. People walk into Starbucks, see the unfamiliar terminology on the menu boards, get overwhelmed and feel completely lost. That's one of the reasons I started a website waaay back in the early '00s with drink info on it, to help people navigate the menu. The problem is, “What should I order?” is a hard question to answer without context. It's like “What should I order at McDonald's?” or “What book should I buy from Amazon?” To give a useful answer, you need to know the asker's preferences and what they're in the mood for. I'll list some of the more common things people have in mind here and my suggestions for what to order. And remember — when in doubt, ask the barista. I just want a coffee. Go ahead and order a coffee, that's totally allowed. If they're in the middle of brewing a new batch, or if they've stopped brewing the coffee you want for the day, they may offer you an Americano, a French press, or a Clover brew. All of those are pretty good options. I want something kinda sweet but not too expensive or fancy. Try the vanilla latte. It can be made hot or cold, depending on what temperature of drink you're in the mood for. I want that thing...

Read More

Review: Fizzio Lemon Ale (Starbucks)

The third soda in the new Fizzio lineup is the Lemon Ale. While not as well-known a flavor as root beer or ginger ale, and not alcoholic as its name might imply (it’s an ale like ginger ale, not like actual ale), the Lemon Ale still makes a good third member to the trio. When I ordered it, the barista identified it as her favorite of the three offerings, and I can see why. Like its soda siblings, this drink is not too calorie-laden (80 calories in a tall) and is made from concentrate and then freshly carbonated with the new and mysterious Fizzio carbonation machine. The result is a soda that is quite sweet, and not at all tart like one might expect from a lemony drink. I expected this drink to basically taste like a carbonated lemonade, but there’s more to it than that. It seems to have more citrus flavors in it than just lemon — in fact, it reminded me a little bit of the Peach Green Tea Lemonade. It’s fruity and very tasty, while not hitting you over the head with lemon flavor. If you like the various tea lemonades at Starbucks, you’ll like this soda. Bullet-pointed summary: What: Fizzio Lemon Ale Where: Starbucks Options: Just the size Verdict: A fruity, lemony soda that is much more on the sweet side than the tart...

Read More

Review: Fizzio Golden Ginger Ale (Starbucks)

Along with the highly anticipated Spiced Root Beer, Starbucks’s new lineup of “handcrafted sodas” includes the Golden Ginger Ale. I was pretty excited by this, because ginger ale is one of my favorite drinks. Not only does it help calm upset stomachs, it’s a nice flavorful drink option that’s reliably caffeine-free and pretty widely available. So I got one the first day the sodas became available to check it out. I was not disappointed. The Golden Ginger Ale is very gingery, and while it’s sweet it’s not overwhelmingly sweet for a soda. I’d put it a little lower on the sweetness level than the root beer. It has a clean, crisp taste with no extra nonsense and a good level of carbonation. To be honest, it’s one of the better ginger ales I’ve had. Definitely worth getting if you want a nice refreshing soda (or pop, depending on your dialect). Like the other sodas, the Ginger Ale is pretty reasonable calorie-wise (80 calories in a tall, 100 in a grande) and made without high fructose corn syrup. It’s made from concentrate and freshly carbonated while you wait. Or while you fidget impatiently, if you’re me. Bullet-pointed summary: What: Fizzio Golden Ginger Ale Where: Starbucks Options: Just the size Verdict: An excellent, refreshing ginger ale. Check out all three Fizzio sodas: Spiced Root Beer Golden Ginger Ale Lemon...

Read More

Review: Fizzio Spiced Root Beer (Starbucks)

After all the speculation, the day is finally here — the summer drinks have arrived at Starbucks, and that means the fancy new carbonation machines have been fired up and the “handcrafted sodas” are available. I hit up my local Starbucks to taste all three of them. What can I say, I’m a giver. The soda that caused the most anticipation among my friends is the Spiced Root Beer. So naturally, that’s the soda I tackled first. Made from concentrate and carbonated in the new machine, this drink is served nice and cold, and as bubbly as a regular fountain soda. This is no regular fountain soda, though. It’s one of the sweetest root beers I’ve tasted in my long years of beverage addiction, and the “spiced” part definitely adds to the flavor. Aside from the usual spices in root beer, this one has what tastes like cloves and maybe some cinnamon or cardamom. It’s not as heavily spiced as the chai or Vanilla Spice Latte, but it’s definitely different from a regular root beer. These sodas are made without high fructose corn syrup or artificial flavors, and calorie-wise they’re not too bad. You can get them from a tall (80 calories) to a trenta (210 calories) and since they’re being heavily promoted right now you can probably find coupons or “happy hours” to get them pretty cheaply. Depending...

Read More

Review: Blackberry Mojito (Starbucks)

This is the second of the two shaken tea drinks coming up at Starbucks this year. And if you’re anything like me, or the baristas I got the drink from, you’re looking at the name and thinking “Mojito? Is this alcoholic or something?” No, it’s not alcoholic. Nobody seems to know why it’s named like that. I learned ages ago when I was a barista never to try to figure out the logic in the Starbucks marketing department. As a shaken iced tea, it can only be ordered “on the rocks”, in sizes from 12 ounce Tall to 30 ounce Trenta. Like the Peach Green Tea Lemonade, this drink surprised me. Knowing Starbucks’s tendency toward sweet drinks, I expected the Blackberry Mojito to be similar to the Very Berry Hibiscus Refresher or the Passion Tea Lemonade. But this drink isn’t actually very sweet — instead, it’s basically an iced tea with an understated hint of berry in it. It’s much more tea than berry. You could probably order it with some Classic syrup if you wanted a sweeter iced tea experience, but I think it’s best without it, so you can enjoy the uncharacteristically downplayed flavors. I’m usually not a fan of iced tea overall, but if you are, and you want a drink that’s more “tea with a hint of flavor” rather than Starbucks’s usual “flavorings with a...

Read More

Review: Peach Green Tea Lemonade (Starbucks)

I’ve written a few posts speculating about the upcoming carbonated offerings at Starbucks, but there’s two other drinks coming up on the summer menu that don’t involve the mysterious carbonation machine — both shaken teas springing from the recent Teavana acquisition. This review covers the Peach Green Tea Lemonade. It’s a shaken iced tea with lemonade added, like the Passion Tea Lemonade (one of my favorite drinks on the rare occasions that I want something cold). It can only be ordered iced, but can be ordered in any size from Tall up through the 30-ounce Trenta. I’ll be honest, peach is not one of my favorite flavors, especially fake peach. So I was expecting to be kind of “meh” on this one. However, I was pleasantly surprised: the peach flavor is not overwhelming, and doesn’t hit you over the head with fakeness. Instead, it blends quite nicely with the green tea. The lemonade is also not overwhelming, just adding an overall citrus-ness to the drink. Unlike a lot of sweetened Starbucks drinks, you can actually taste the tea. Overall it’s a nice balance of fruity, citrusy flavors and crisp green tea. I recommend it if you want a nice cool drink that’s not as sugary as a Frappuccino. Bullet-pointed summary: What: Peach Green Tea Lemonade¬†shaken iced tea Where: Starbucks Options: Just the size Verdict: A sweet, fruity, citrusy drink...

Read More

How to order coffee at Starbucks

Here’s a question I get a lot: “How do I order coffee at Starbucks?“ There’s something about the ubiquitous green-aproned store that seems to intimidate people who’ve never been in one before. They get the impression that there’s some kind of complex lingo they’ll never be able to understand. There’s so many jokes about how the size names are bizarre and the drinks are complicated that people think it’s too difficult. Well folks, have no fear, I’m here to sort you out. Here is the super-complex, amazing, mysterious way to order coffee at Starbucks. Wait in line, and when you get to the cash register and the person in the green apron asks you what you want, utter the following code phrase: “I’d like a medium coffee, please.” That’s it. If you’d like a small or a large, use those words instead. They’ll take your money and pour you a coffee. It’ll run you somewhere between one and two dollars in most American stores. Starbucks does have weird drink size names (and the story behind those names is here). But the people behind the counter are human beings and they know what small, medium, and large mean. You can use them. It’s okay. They don’t look down on you for it, and if they snottily correct you — as I have seen many people insist happened to them, but...

Read More

Drink comparison: Americano vs Latte

Today in “drink comparisons I find in the list of search term referrals”, I’m gonna talk about a couple of the simpler drinks on the menu: Americano vs latte. I’ll start with the latte — it’s the drink that forms the basis of most of the espresso drinks on the Starbucks menu. It’s made with espresso shots, steamed milk, and a little bit of milk foam on top. It’s not sweet on its own, but many people add sugar or some kind of flavoring syrup to it. It can be made iced (espresso, cold milk, ice), decaf, pretty much any customization available can be done to it. It’s a very flexible drink and a good test of a coffeeshop’s quality. The Americano on the other hand is unusual among the espresso drink lineup in that it has no milk in it at all. It’s just espresso shots and water — hot water if you’re ordering it hot, cold water and ice if you’re ordering it iced. Essentially it’s espresso watered down to roughly the strength of regular brewed coffee. You may wonder what the point of that is; why water down espresso when you can just get coffee? One reason is that because of the espresso brewing process, an Americano doesn’t have the same taste as a regular coffee. It retains some of its deep espresso-ness. Another reason is...

Read More

Quick update on the Strange Starbucks Afoots

Last Friday I posted¬†that my local Starbucks had acquired a mysterious machine that the barista told me was a carbonation machine. Since then, a couple people have passed along more information about what the plans are for these machines. According to @markinstlouis, his local Starbucks isn’t waiting for the 6/24 release date, but is using the machine to carbonate Refreshers. Makes me want a fizzy Valencia Orange Refresher already. My brother, also an ex-barista, asked the baristas at his local Starbucks and learned that the carbonated drinks being introduced this week will be named “Fizzio” (not gonna lie, I’ve never been a big fan of the names the marketing department comes up with) and one available option will be root beer. Carbonated Refreshers? Non-bottled root beer at Starbucks? It’s gonna be an interesting summer … Update: Talked to another barista, and learned that they’ll be offering not just root beer, but ginger ale and lemonade soda...

Read More

Drink comparison: Mocha vs Macchiato

A glance through the search terms bringing people to my site tells me that people hunting for a comparison of Mocha vs. Macchiato. These are very different drinks, so let me straighten this out for you guys. You definitely don’t want to grab the wrong one. A mocha is chocolate, espresso, steamed milk and usually whipped cream on top. Depending on how you look at it, it’s either a latte with chocolate and whipped cream, or a hot chocolate with espresso. It’s chocolatey and often not super-sweet. It can be ordered “on the rocks” aka iced. An espresso macchiato on the other hand is a cup of milk foam with espresso shots poured into it, “marking” the foam with the espresso. It’s not sweet at all, and is ordered by the number of shots rather than the cup size. However, as far as Starbucks drinks, when people ask about a macchiato they’re often asking about the caramel macchiato. This is a sweeter drink consisting of vanilla syrup, steamed milk, milk foam, espresso shots poured through the foam, and caramel drizzled on top. It’s more like a vanilla/caramel latte than an espresso macchiato or a mocha. If you order it iced you can see the layers of ingredients through the side of the cup — unless of course you order it “upside down”, with the shots going in first. Which...

Read More
  • 1
  • 2