As a Starbucks barista, I also experience the same love-hate relationship that I witness in many of our customers, and honestly I can’t say I blame you. Working for a company that profits off upcharging their customers on the grounds of “ambiance” is always a fun experience; and what keeps me going at 8 a.m. when Sharon from the dental office upstairs drenches me in her pumpkin sweet cream cold foam is definitely not the “Starbucks Experience” — it’s the free Spotify premium, my shares in the company stock, and the free pound of coffee each week. So in honor of Sharon, here’s ten ways to steal a little bit of your dignity back from capitalism’s favorite coffee house.
How to get the most out of your order:
1. Instead of spending $3.95 on a grande iced latte, ask for two shots of espresso on ice in a grande cup ($2.45), then fill the rest of the cup with milk from the carafes in the cafe. You could also add any of the syrups for an extra $0.50. The only drawback is that your barista will be very much aware of this hack, and of you emptying their carafes for it, so maybe leave a tip if you’re going to do it a lot.
3. When you order any grande iced tea or refresher ($2.75-$3.85), it’s standard to dilute the tea concentrate with half water. Instead you can ask for no water (making it all concentrate) and just do what I do, add more water or ice as you sip on it. This will make the beverage last twice as long for the same price.
2. When you order a grande or venti hot tea ($2.65-$2.95), we automatically put two tea bags in the cup even though you technically don’t need them both. Feel free to ask for one of the tea bags on the side and now you’ve got an extra cup of tea.
4. Most people don’t know that iced coffee ($2.45-$3.45) comes standard with classic syrup (our version of simple syrup). This means the cost of a flavor shot is already factored into the price of your iced coffee, so you can substitute any flavor free of additional charge. Or you can drink it black and waste your money like a real man.
5. There are two shots of espresso in both grande and venti hot espresso drinks ($3.45-$4.45). So if you’re buying a venti thinking you’ll get more caffeine, you’re actually just getting more milk and sugar. Go for an americano ($2.65-$3.45), which automatically comes with an extra shot per size, with steamed milk instead.
6. If you’re looking for a cheap and highly caffeinated mixer, you can ask for a trenta size (30 ounces) of any refresher with no water, no ice, and no berries. Then take it home and experiment to make your own cocktails. My managers and I used to make margaritas out of the cool lime refresher base all the time — that is until Starbucks discontinued it (RIP), but the strawberry acai refresher could make an equally good strawberry daiquiri.
7. When I first started working at Starbucks, I was a coffee fiend, but since realizing the correlation between my anxiety and my rapid cold brew intake, I’ve had to get creative about where I get my caffeine. One half teaspoon of matcha powder (aka crushed whole green tea leaves) has about half the caffeine of an 8 ounce cup of black coffee. This might not sound like a lot but it’s still a whole lot more than a regular tea bag, and for someone like me whose heart rate spikes at the mere smell of espresso, matcha is perfect. Matcha can be deliciously incorporated into just about any drink base at Starbucks — water, lemonade, any kind of milk, iced tea, refreshers, etc. My favorite variations are an iced matcha latte with soy milk or a strawberry acai refresher shaken with matcha, but if I’m desperate (and by desperate I mean “it’s 7 a.m. and I’m making a latte every 15 seconds” desperate), I’ll just mix a few scoops into a grande iced green tea.
How to enjoy some drinks at home:
stick it to starbucks
1. To make my favorite drink at home, the matcha green tea latte, you only need two ingredients: your milk of choice (coconut, soy, or oat milk work best as non-dairy substitutes, almond milk will work but the consistency gets lumpy) and sweetened matcha powder. Then all you have to do is heat the milk and whisk in one teaspoon of matcha powder for every 8 ounces of liquid.
2. Most college students assume a Keurig is the easiest and most cost-efficient method of making coffee in your dorm room, but a french press costs a fraction of the price and a pound of coffee will get you twice the amount of K-cups for the same price. This method is also much more environmentally friendly as it produces almost zero waste, except for the coffee grounds, which can easily be made into compost. Using a french press is pretty simple; just ask your barista to coarse grind your chosen pound of coffee, then take it home and add 2 tablespoons of grounds for every 6 ounces of boiling water. Let it brew for about 4 minutes (if you like it stronger, go for 5 or 6 minutes), then press down the plunger and pour.
3. It’s actually not that hard to make any tea latte, like a london fog or a chai latte, at home. All you need is a box of your chosen tea (I usually go with earl grey), any kind of milk, and vanilla syrup if you want. Steep the tea in half the amount of water you would normally use for five minutes, then add your preferred amount of milk, and the optional vanilla syrup.
And now the tip to end all tips — if I made your drink wrong don’t be afraid to ask me to remake it. This one usually blows people's minds, but when it comes down to it, the job of a Starbucks barista can be broken down to two tasks: making drinks and cleaning. I would much rather remake your venti coconut milk mocha macchiato than pretend to wipe down the refrigerator for the hundredth time. (Unless there’s a line out the door and all I did was pour your chai latte a little differently — yeah, I’m talking to you, Sharon).