Ever stood in front of the Starbucks menu completely clueless as to what everything means? Do you always order the same thing because you don’t know the difference between a latte and a cappuccino? For that matter, you may wonder, what’s the difference between a frappuccino and an iced drink? Well, fear no more: having worked as a barista myself, I am here to give answers to those confusing coffee questions.
First, let me start off by pointing out the different types of beverages that Starbucks has to offer.
- The latte: the latte is made with steamed milk and espresso and has a small amount of foam on the top.
- The cappuccino: made with steamed milk and espresso, the cappuccino has much more foam than the latte, so if you ask for one with little foam, you might as well just get the latte.
- The caramel macchiato: this drink has steamed milk, espresso, vanilla, and caramel. This is a layered drink, meaning that the ingredients are added in a certain order, so if you stir it, you’re just getting a vanilla latte with some caramel in it.
- The frappuccino: this drink is more of a desert than the other beverages. Made with a special base and a flavor addition, it is blended with ice. Some frappuccinos are made with a coffee base, while others are cream based. So whether or not it has caffeine depends on the base.
- Brewed coffee: this is just your standard cup of coffee such as you would make at home, only Starbucks offers a variety of blends that you don’t find at the grocery store. Because many people don’t drink their coffee black, you will often hear “café au lait,” which just means coffee with milk.
Now that I have explained the various types of drinks, let’s move on to how one should order a drink. This of course depends on a number of questions.
1. Looking for something with caffeine? If so, choose any of the above drinks and make sure to get a coffee-based frappuccino. If you want a decaffeinated drink, just ask for decaf espresso or a decaf blend for coffee and a cream base for a frappuccino.
2. Sweeten the deal. All of the above items, except for frappuccinos and caramel macchiatos, contain no sugar. To sweeten them up, ask for a flavor addition or simply add the sugar yourself.
3. Do you want it cold or hot? Only the frappuccino is made cold. As for the others, you can always ask them to be made iced. Keep in mind, the frappuccino is the only drink that is actually blended.
4. Spice up your coffee selection. Starbucks offers a bunch of different blends, ranging from French roast to Arabian to Latin American. They differ in taste and texture, so if you’re not a coffee expert, it’s usually safe to stick with the House blend. However, if you’re feeling zesty, try a few different blends and see if you can taste a difference.
5. Make it your own. You can always add an extra shot of espresso, syrup, or cream. They usually cost more, however, especially the espresso.
6. Staying healthy? A lot of people request their drinks “skinny,” meaning that it is made with skim milk, sugar-free syrup, and they do not put the whipped cream on top. Usually, sugar-free syrup tastes roughly the same as the regular stuff. Although a word of caution: sugar-free mocha is not fit for everyone’s taste buds. You can also order a “light” frappuccino, which is made with a base that contains roughly half the calories and carbohydrates as the regular base does. Also, watch out for drinks with multiple flavors in them, such as the white-chocolate caramel latte. It may taste yummy, but it’s packed with calories.
Hopefully by now you’re armed with enough information to make an educated decision the next time you’re ordering at Starbucks. So go ahead, step out of the box and get yourself a grande skinny iced vanilla latte with an extra shot and call it a café-savvy day.